Ten richest men double their fortunes in pandemic while incomes of 99 percent of humanity fall

Ten richest men double their fortunes in pandemic while incomes of 99 percent of humanity fall

January 17th 2022

The wealth of Ireland’s nine billionaires has increased by a massive €18.3 billion (58 per cent) to €49.7 billion since the start of the pandemic. That’s according to Oxfam which published its Inequality Kills report today, ahead of the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda taking place this week.

The new report details how inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds, based on deaths globally from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger and climate breakdown.

Globally, the world’s ten richest men more than doubled their fortunes from €610 billion to €1.3 trillion—at a rate of €1.13 billion a day—during the first two years of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the aggregate incomes of 99 percent of humanity have stagnated and fallen and over 160 million more people were forced into poverty.

Calls for wealth tax in Ireland

Oxfam Ireland has today called for extreme wealth in Ireland and around the world to be taxed to help fund the recovery from the pandemic. Oxfam’s report shows the biggest surge in billionaire wealth since records began. Since the start of the pandemic, billionaires have seen their wealth increase by €4.35 trillion, with a new billionaire created every 26 hours.

Oxfam’s estimates show that an one and a half percent wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning above €4 million could raise €4 billion in tax revenue. A one and half percent wealth tax on Irish billionaires alone could raise a little over €0.7 billion.

Commenting on the report, Oxfam Ireland’s CEO Jim Clarken said:“Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of euros into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom.

“Now is the time to redress that imbalance through progressive wealth taxes, along with other progressive measures such as debt relief and cancellation. Within the EU, the Irish Government could lead by example by introducing a wealth tax of one and a half percent on the very wealthiest which would have a positive effect on Ireland’s society as it recovers from the pandemic."

It is right that we should ask those that have gained most from the pandemic to contribute to the recovery. The funds generated by a wealth tax could have a transformative effect on funding Ireland’s recovery from the pandemic and could be targeted at those areas most in need –homeless people and people trapped in the increasing poverty trap of private rental accommodation, especially lone parents. It could be used to modernise our struggling health system, help advance gender equality by addressing funding gaps in the care economy and fund a just transition to a zero-carbon society. It would also enable Ireland to meet our long-standing commitment to spend 0.7per cent of our gross national income on overseas development assistance.

Progressive wealth taxes at a global level could have a similar galvanising effect. We can choose a global economy centred on equality in which nobody lives in poverty, in which everyone has the chance to thrive. Governments must act now to claw back the exponential rise in billionaire wealth during Covid-19 by implementing solidarity taxes to fight inequality,” Clarken added.

Inequality between countries rises for first time in generation

The Oxfam report also highlights that inequality between countries is expected to rise for the first time in a generation. Developing countries, denied access to sufficient vaccines because of rich governments’ protection of pharmaceutical corporations’ monopolies, have been forced to slash social spending as their debt levels spiral and now face the prospect of austerity measures. The proportion of people with COVID-19 who die from the virus in developing countries is roughly double that in wealthy countries.

Speaking on the issue of vaccine inequality, Clarken continued: “Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people. This is having life and death consequences around the world.

“The world’s response to the pandemic has unleashed this economic violence particularly acutely across racial, marginalised and gendered lines. As COVID-19 spikes, this turns to surges of gender-based violence, even as more unpaid care is heaped upon women and girls.Most poignantly, following the horrific recent murder in Tullamore, the Inequality Kills report shows that violence against women has soared during the pandemic. Yet gender-based violence has accounted for only 0.0002% of global pandemic response funding.”

The full Inequality Kills report, key findings summary and research methodology is available to download here

For more details of Oxfam Ireland's wealth tax proposal please see our submission to the Commission on Taxation and Welfare here.