Mega-rich have already recovered from pandemic losses — but it could take the poor a decade, Oxfam warns

A doctor collects a swab sample from a Covid-19 patient at his home on the eastern outskirts of Lima, on January 22, 2021.

ERNESTO BENAVIDES | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic within nine months, according to estimates from Oxfam, but the global charity believe it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover.

In a report entitled “The Inequality Virus,” Oxfam noted that “the world’s 10 richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began — more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic.”

But at the same time, the pandemic has “ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work,” the report stated.

Women and ethnic minorities were being hardest hit by the pandemic, Oxfam noted.

“Women and marginalized racial and ethnic groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis. They are more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from health care,” Gabriela Bucher, the executive director of Oxfam International, stated in the report.

“Billionaires fortunes, however, rebounded as stock markets recovered despite continued recession in the real economy. Their total wealth hit $11.95 trillion in December 2020, equivalent to G-20 governments’ total Covid-19 recovery spending.”

When the global pandemic took hold in Europe and the U.S. in spring 2020, global stock markets plummeted as lockdowns were imposed to control the virus. But they have since rallied thanks to unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus measures by governments and central banks aimed at mitigating the impact of the health crisis.

Oxfam said that the road to recovery will be much longer for people who were already struggling before Covid-19. “When the virus struck, more than half of workers in poor countries were living in poverty, and three-quarters of workers globally had no access to social protections like sick pay or unemployment benefits,” it noted.

Oxfam’s report was published on Monday to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum‘s Davos Agenda, taking place virtually this year amid the ongoing pandemic.

The forum brings together political and business leaders to look for ways to improve the state of the world, although it is dogged by criticism that debate rarely leads to material changes in government or corporate policies. A key theme on the agenda is looking at how to rebuild the global economy on fairer footing after the global health crisis.

There are already concerns about the unequal rollout of coronavirus vaccines. Last week, the director-general of the World Health Organization said the world was on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure” because of the way richer countries had commandeered most of the available vaccine supplies.

Oxfam’s report too called “for the fight against inequality to be at the heart of economic rescue and recovery efforts.”

“Covid-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago. Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000 mostly white and male billionaires to bounce back,” Oxfam said.

Long-standing inequality

Temporary tax on excess profits



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