The report, which draws on data compiled by Forbes, looks at the rise of inequality over the past two years. It is timed to coincide with the kickoff of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of some of the wealthiest people and world leaders.
Much of the jump in wealth came in the first year of the pandemic. It then plateaued and has since dropped a bit, said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam.
“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.”
Benefiting from high prices
Billionaires in the food and agribusiness sector have seen their total wealth increase by $382 billion, or 45%, over the past two years, after adjusting for inflation. Some 62 food billionaires were created since 2020.
Meanwhile, the net worth of their peers in the oil, gas and coal sectors jumped by $53 billion, or 24%, since 2020, after adjusting for inflation.
Forty new pandemic billionaires were created in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and the beneficiary of billions in public funding.
Tax the rich
To counter the meteoric growth in inequality and help those struggling with the rise in prices, Oxfam is pushing governments to tax the wealthy and corporations.
It is calling for a temporary 90% tax on excess corporate profits, as well as a one-time tax on billionaires’ wealth.
The group would also like to levy a permanent wealth tax on the super-rich. It suggests a 2% tax on assets greater than $5 million, rising to 5% for net worth above $1 billion. This could raise $2.5 trillion worldwide.