Oxfam’s annual global inequality briefing, “Inequality Kills”, paints a deadly picture of rising inequality. 

Published on Monday Jan. 17 to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda, the report reveals how COVID-19 has unleashed an economic crisis that has hit the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest.

As climate change, conflict, and the pandemic drive humanitarian crises all over the world, the money accumulated by the world’s wealthiest people could help make huge strides in the fight against extreme poverty and its systemic causes — as highlighted throughout 2021 by World Food Programme head David Beasley. 

Here, we’ve highlighted the most eye-watering wealth inequality statistics from Oxfam’s findings.

1. The world’s 10 richest men more than doubled their fortunes during COVID-19

The world’s 10 richest people (yep, they’re all men) more than doubled their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion — at a rate of $15,000 per second or $1.3 billion a day — during the first two years of the pandemic.

According to Forbes figures cited by Oxfam, those men are: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, and Warren Buffet.

2. If they lost 99.999% of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99% of all the people on the planet

According to Oxfam International’s Executive Director Gabriela Bucher, if these 10 men were to lose 99.999% of their wealth right now, they would still be richer than 99% of all the people on the planet. 

In fact, a 99% windfall tax on the wealth they’ve gained since the start of the pandemic could pay to make enough vaccines for the entire world, help fight climate change, and address universal health care and gender-based violence, while still leaving these men $8 billion better off than they were before the pandemic.

3. They now have 6 times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people

The 10 richest men in the world own more than the poorest 3.1 billion people. In fact, they have six times more wealth.

4. The incomes of 99% of humanity fell because of COVID-19

As a result of the pandemic, 99% of the world’s population are worse off because of lockdowns, lower international trade, less international tourism, and other factors. 

5. 160 million more people have been forced into poverty

It is estimated that 160 million more people were living below the poverty line — defined by the World Bank as living on less than $5.50 (£4.02) in upper-middle-income countries — than would have been without the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

6. A new billionaire was minted every 26 hours since the pandemic began

The world’s small elite of 2,755 billionaires has seen its fortunes grow more during COVID-19 than they have in the whole of the last 14 years — 14 years that themselves were a bonanza for billionaire wealth. This is the biggest annual increase in billionaire wealth since records began.

7. Inequality contributes to the death of 1 person every 4 seconds

A lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, hunger, and climate collapse is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds. What’s even worse? Oxfam says that’s a conservative finding.

Global Citizen's Give While You Live campaign, launched in 2020 at the World Economic Forum, calls on the world's billionaires to help achieve the UN's Global Goals and end extreme poverty and its systemic causes. The campaign calls on the world's billionaires to give at least 5% of their wealth away every year to an important cause or issue area. You can join the movement to end extreme poverty by taking action with Global Citizen here


Demand Equity

The World’s 10 Richest Men Doubled Their Fortunes During COVID-19, and 6 Other Facts on Wealth Inequality

By Tess Lowery