An Oxfam Intermón study shows that COVID-19 has caused a dramatic increase in global inequality. On the one hand, the pandemic has led to extremely dangerous situations for many families; on the other hand, the big fortunes have seen their assets multiply thanks to the opportunities provided by their privileged position, as well as capital injections that have been made from the States to try to alleviate the crisis. The report itself states that “a huge part of the increase in billionaire wealth was a direct consequence of this infusion of money.”
The contrast between the richest 1% and the other 99% is hardly imaginable, so the numbers help a lot. It is estimated that the impact of the coronavirus could push 250 million people below the poverty line by 2022, and an alarming number of people are already in this situation.
On the other hand, the wealth of billionaires has grown in the last 24 months as much as it has in 23 years. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 573 new billionaires have appeared in the world; In addition, its assets are currently equivalent to 13.9% of global GDP, which is a very high percentage that is not easy to measure with data alone. For comparison: in 2000, the combined wealth of billionaires was 4.4% of world GDP. In other words, it has more than tripled in just two decades, with much of that increase occurring in the past two years.
All this is happening at a time when 99% of people have experienced a drop in their income since the advent of covid-19, giving rise to a paradox that can be called a dystopia: in the time it takes for a new billionaire to emerge, a million people could see themselves being dragged along. . into poverty.
This is far better understood than guaranteeing, in the words of Oxfam Intermón, that “the covid-19 pandemic is on track for the largest systemic increase in income inequality ever recorded.” With all these numbers on hand, it’s hard not to think that something serious and structural is going on.
The document divides what it calls the “pandemic of inequality” into six dimensions: inequality in wealth, income, gender, race, health, and between countries, each with its own characteristics. Worth noting is the section that talks about the existing gap in the world between men and women, with data that suggests a disturbing setback. And the fact is that while male employment recovered quickly from the impact of the coronavirus, there were 13 million fewer women in 2021 than in 2019.
The gender pay gap has not gone unnoticed either: if before the pandemic it was assumed that it would take 100 years to equalize the salaries of men and women, then after it the estimate increased to 136 years.
The report concludes by pointing to “giants who profit from suffering”, divided into four sectors. Both pharmaceutical and technology companies have directly benefited from the effects of the coronavirus and the lockdown, respectively; the big oil companies have doubled their profit margins, which continue to skyrocket; and finally, the role of food industry companies is surprising: since 2020, up to 62 new billionaires have appeared from them.
With all this in mind, and given that it is estimated that in the US 60% of the responsibility for inflation falls on exorbitant growth in corporate profits, the study concludes with a clear call for progressive tax reforms that, through income taxes during the crisis, solidarity taxes on large fortunes and repeated taxes on wealth reduce levels of inequality that are clearly intolerable.
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