Jan 17, 2022 - Economy & Business

Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemic

Combination images of billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Combination images of billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Photos: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images (left); Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIME

The world's 10 wealthiest men have increased their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion since early 2020, per a report published Wednesday.

Why it matters: "The incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off because of COVID-19," according to the report, published by anti-poverty charity Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum's pandemic-delayed Davos Agenda, which begins Monday.

  • Economic, gender and racial inequalities have worsened as over 160 million more people were forced into poverty in the past two years, Oxfam said.

By the numbers: Billionaires' wealth has risen more in the period since the pandemic began than it has in the past 14 years, according to the report, which compiled data from Forbes, the World Bank and the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth report.

  • Nine of the 10 richest men are Americans, including Tesla founder Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
  • Oxfam notes that while the richest men's wealth has increased at a rate of $15,000 per second, inequality has contributed to the death of at least 21,000 people each day — or one person every four seconds.

The big picture: The charity's study comes days after the World Bank released a report that found the gap between rich and poor countries had widened during the pandemic.

  • Oxfam's report warns that inequality between countries is expected to rise for the first time in a generation, with poorer countries denied access to sufficient COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam's executive director, will "discuss the role vaccine inequity in played in worsening the pandemic’s unequal outcomes" at the Davos Agenda on Tuesday, World Economic Forum spokesperson Madeleine Hillyer said in an emailed statement.

Between the lines: Oxfam's methodology has been criticized previously for using criteria that considers a student with large debts poor despite their "high future earning potential," the BBC notes.

What they're saying: Hillyer said Oxfam’s study draws attention to an inequality gap that the World Economic Forum's work on jobs, re-skilling and digital inclusion aims to tackle directly, and the Davos Agenda will hear from "leaders of countries on both sides of the global inequality divide."

  • "There's no question the COVID-19 pandemic has widened inequalities around the globe," Hillyer noted.
  • Bucher said in a statement accompanying the report that billionaires "have had a terrific pandemic."
  • "Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom," Bucher added.

Read the report in full, via DocumentCloud:

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