Every 30 hours, a new billionaire was created during the COVID pandemic; the same rate at which a million people could fall into extreme poverty this year.
A new report from Oxfam found that while many people around the world had been hit with the rising cost of petrol and food, billionaires had been profiting.
“The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for these billionaires,” Oxfam Australia CEO Lyn Morgain said.
“Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.”
The report found 573 people became billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours, with five new billionaires minted in Australia in a single year.
At the same time, Oxfam expects that, this year, 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.
Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first two years of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined.
The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 per cent of global GDP.
“Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are now smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions,” Morgain said.
“The super-rich have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits.
“They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatisation and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments.”
Oxfam’s new research also revealed corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors were posting record-high profits, even as wages had barely budged and workers struggled with decades-high prices amid COVID-19.
The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by US$453 billion in the past two years - equivalent to US$1 billion every two days.
Five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Exxon and Chevron) are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.