Billionaire wealth soars, as millions fall into poverty: Oxfam

  • Billionaire wealth soars, as millions fall into poverty: Oxfam

Billionaire wealth soars, as millions fall into poverty: Oxfam

"It would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what the Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited Mukesh Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic and three years to make what he made in a second", the report states.

The report said economists Jeffrey Sachs, Jayati Ghosh and Gabriel Zucman expect an "increase" or a "major increase" in income inequality in their respective countries - America, India, and France.

According to the report, 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 and the woman hit hardest.

India introduced one of the earliest and most stringent lockdowns in the face of the pandemic and its enforcement brought the economy to a standstill, triggering unemployment, hunger, distress migration and untold hardship in its wake, the report said. Amid the chaos, a majority of the people had lost their livelihood while the white-collar workers isolated themselves and continued working from home, according to Oxfam.

Worldwide, billionaires' wealth increased by $3.9tn (trillion) between 18 March and 31 December 2020 and now stands at $11.95tn - which is equivalent to what G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic, the report says. The increase in the wealth of the richest person in India during pandemic could keep 40 crore informal workers out of poverty for at least 5 months.

East Asia and Pacific's 610 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by $1.3 trillion dollars since March, enough to give all 64 million people forced into poverty by Covid-19 in the region a cheque for $20,000 each. On the other hand, data has shown that 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in the month of April 2020, the report said. "This will disproportionately affect women, youth, children, Indigenous Peoples, and migrant workers, as they are more likely to work in the informal sector", the report revealed.

The report shows how the rigged economic system enabled super-rich elite to amass wealth in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression while billions of people struggling to make ends meet. "Their mass exodus on foot triggered by the sudden lockdown turned the health emergency into a humanitarian crisis", said the Oxfam report. Also, more than 300 informal workers died due to starvation, suicides, exhaustion, road and rail accidents, police brutality, and denial of timely medical care.

"While the Coronavirus was being touted as a great equaliser in the beginning, it laid bare the stark inequalities inherent in the society soon after the lockdown was imposed", said Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar.

In this regard, it found that only 6 per cent of the poorest 20 per cent households had access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93 per cent of the top 20 per cent households in India.

Beyond income and job losses, poorer women also suffered healthwise because of the disruption in regular health services and Anganwadi centres.

Oxfam is urging governments to do more to address inequality, including making tax policies more equitable and cancelling developing countries' debts.

Oxfam's The Inequality Virus report, published to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum's "Davos Agenda", highlights how Covid-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in nearly every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.