Oxfam International released its report on Monday
India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, was the world’s 21st richest man in March 2020 and by October 2020 his wealth doubled and he climbed to 6th place. He made more money every four days than all 195,000 of his employees made in a year.
Billionaires in the Middle East and North Africa made twice as much money last year.
These findings have been published Thursday by Oxfam International in a report titled ‘The Inequality Virus’. The report examines how the coronavirus has affected economically vulnerable populations unequally.
The researchers first looked at movements in the wealth of the world’s richest and found that the 1,000 richest people in the world lost 30% of their wealth between February and March 2020 but had gained it all back by November.
Meanwhile, the world’s poorest are expected to take a decade to return to their February 2020 status—about 14 times longer than it took the rich to bounce back. Another stark observation is that just the top 10 richest people have gained enough wealth in the past 11 months to pay for a vaccine for everyone and prevent anyone from falling into poverty.
The virus has discriminated by gender too. The researchers looked at those sectors of the economy that were the worst affected by the pandemic and found that those sectors tended to employ far more women than men. If there were equal numbers of men and women whose jobs were put at risk, 112 million fewer women would be affected.
Racial groups that are economically marginalized have been worse affected than privileged groups. In the United States, unequal mortality rates in white people compared to black and Latinx people mean that 22,000 black and Latinx people would still be alive if the same number of people died for every thousand people of that population group.
The report examines five measures to reduce inequality.
The first of these measures focuses on building a more profoundly equal world. Traditional economic measures, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), must be dropped. Governments must commit to reducing inequality, such as in Costa Rica, where the government has achieved almost universal health care, up from just 25% at the start of the pandemic. The World Bank estimates that such measures could allow the world’s poorest to bounce back in three years instead of ten years.
Second, governments should care for people and concentrate spending to counter systemic problems that prevent marginalised citizens from reaping the full benefits of their efforts. Exclusion, oppression and discrimination must be rooted out, the report says.
Third, all citizens deserve decent livelihoods, Oxfam believes. To achieve this, labour laws must ensure dignified working conditions and fair wages, especially for the lowest-paid.
The report also cites David Graeber’s book Bullshit Jobs, in which the author demonstrates how jobs that contribute meaningfully to human well-being pay far less than jobs that do not.
Fourth, Oxfam insists that the world’s richest people should pay their fair share of tax. An estimate shows that if a temporary tax had been imposed on the 32 global corporations that profited the most during the pandemic, governments around the world could have raised $104 billion in 2020. Similarly, had Jordan, Egypt and Morocco implemented a wealth tax of 2% from 2010 onwards, they could have generated more revenues than the proceeds of their IMF debts in recent years and they could have avoided austerity measures. These examples, Oxfam argues, show that the rich are not being taxed nearly enough and it is the poor who bear the cost of the rich getting richer.
Finally, climate safety must be ensured, since it affects the poorest countries, and within these countries, the poorest people, the most. Researchers have observed that the changes in the last few years have most affected women living in poverty, who are usually responsible for the tasks made more difficult by climate change, including bringing food and water to their families. Ensuring climate safety involves making efforts to reduce climate change and resettling those who are affected by changes.