COVID-19 pandemic created a new billionaire virtually every day

Analysis of data compiled by Forbes points to a rise of inequality between the world's rich and poor

COVID-19 pandemic created a new billionaire virtually every day

While the COVID-19 epidemic has touched lives all around the world, it seems to have benefited the finances of the wealthy.

According to an Oxfam report released on Sunday, 573 people have become billionaires since 2020, increasing the global total to 2,668, reported CNN.

So far throughout the pandemic, a new billionaire has been created every 30 hours on average. The analysis, which is based on Forbes data, examines the rise of inequality over the last two years.

The report’s publication was timed with the launch of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which brings together some of the international's wealthiest people and world leaders.

During the epidemic, billionaires' overall net worth increased by US$3.8 trillion, or 42%, to US$12.7 trillion. Strong gains in the stock markets have powered much of the growth, which has been supported by governments infusing money into the global economy to cushion the financial hit of the coronavirus.

The first year of the epidemic saw a significant increase in wealth. According to Max Lawson, head of Oxfam's inequality strategy, it then plateaued before dropping somewhat.

Growing inequality and rising food costs, on the other hand, might push as many as 263 million people into extreme poverty this year, erasing decades of progress, Oxfam research released last month noted.

"I've never seen such a dramatic growth in poverty and growth in wealth at the same moment in history," Lawson said. "It's going to hurt a lot of people."

Consumers around the world are dealing with rising energy and food prices, but firms in these industries, as well as their executives, are benefiting from the increases, Oxfam reports.

After correcting for inflation, billionaires in the food and agriculture sector have seen their total fortune rise by US$382 billion, or 45% in the last two years. Since the year 2020, 62 food billionaires have been produced.

Meanwhile, after accounting for inflation, their colleagues in the oil, gas, and coal sectors have increased their net worth by US$53 billion, or 24%, since 2020.

Oxfam is urging governments to tax the wealthy and companies in order to combat rising inequality and assist people affected by rising prices. It proposes a 90% temporary tax on surplus business earnings, as well as a one-time wealth tax on billionaires.

The organization also wants to impose a permanent wealth tax on the ultra-wealthy. It proposes a 2% tax on assets worth more than US$5 million, rising to 5% for net worth exceeding $1 billion. This has the potential to raise US$2.5 trillion for governments’ coffers globally.