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The number of billionaires grew by 13.4% in 2020 – making the pandemic a ‘windfall to billionaire wealth’

  • A new report from research firm Wealth-X found that the number of global billionaires rose above 3,000 in 2020.
  • It’s a first, per the report, with billionaires around the world increasing their collective wealth by 5.7%.
  • Wealth taxes have been floated as one way to redistribute wealth and address pandemic inequity.

The pandemic was a boon for billionaires. It grew their collective wealth and helped more people join their ranks. For the first time, the world has more than 3,000 billionaires, according to a new report from research firm Wealth-X.

Aug 10, 2020: We Visualized Billionaire Wealth Gains During the Pandemic

That’s a 13.4% increase since 2019. Their total wealth swelled to $10 trillion – a 5.7% increase in net worth.

“Viewed in aggregate, the global pandemic delivered a windfall to billionaire wealth, boosted by the flood of monetary stimulus and swelling profits in key sectors that coined a new wave of younger, self-made billionaires,” the report said.

But not all billionaire wealth was created equal, with those who find their fortunes in pandemic-stricken industries like travel and entertainment not benefiting as much as those in sectors like technology. Even so, the uneven wealth gains came as workers around the world lost $3.7 trillion in earnings during the pandemic, according to a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

In the US alone, poverty ticked up by 1% from 2019 to 2020, according to the US Census Bureau, and median household income dropped by 2.9%. North America cemented its status as “the world’s leading billionaire region in 2020,” with the three-comma club there growing by 17.5% from the year prior. In fact, North America’s 980 billionaires account for 30.6% of the world’s billionaires. The US was the top billionaire country in 2020.

When it came to growing the ranks of billionaires, Asia followed close behind North America, with the number of billionaires growing by 16.5%, for a grand total of of 883. Asia’s billionaires saw their collective net worths growth to $2.6 trillion – a 7.5% increase.

Those gains come amid growing calls to tax the rich and address inequality

The report attributes the ongoing and ever-growing wealth divide as one contributing factor in increasing unrest across the world.

May 25, 2020: Before the pandemic, the number of people in poverty had been steadily falling for years. Now it is rising again for the first time since 1998. That is because all around the world most people cannot go to work, and many have been laid off. And that is particularly difficult for people in poor countries and for migrant workers. King’s College London estimates that the number of extremely poor people globally could increase by 420 million over the next several months. Al Jazeera speaks to Jayati Ghosh in New Delhi. She is the chairwoman of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“As the global economy gradually emerges from the crisis, the issue of widening inequality may well spur more concerted redistributive policy efforts in areas such as tax and regulation,” the report said.

One prominent critic of the monumental wealth gains by billionaires has emerged: President Joe Biden.

“Billionaires have seen their wealth go up by $1.8 trillion,” Biden said in a recent speech, referencing a report from the left-leaning Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies tracking gains by American billionaires (their net worths leapt by 62% during the pandemic, according to the report). Biden said: “It’s simply not fair.”

A wealth tax has consistently been floated as one way to address pandemic inequity and bolster economies. The International Monetary Fund has said a temporary tax on the wealthy could help aid pandemic recovery; Argentina went a step further and instituted a one-off hike on its wealthiest residents, raising $2.4 billion. A report from Oxfam, the Fight Inequality Alliance, and the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies and Patriotic Millionaires found that a one-time 99% wealth tax on the world’s billionaires could raise more than enough to vaccinate the world.

In the US, House Democrats have proposed a new tax plan that would unwind some Trump-era tax cuts and hike rates on large corporations, assets like stocks, and Americans earning over $5 million. However, the 3% “surtax” on Americans who earn over $5 million still falls short of an outright wealth tax, Insider’s Ben Winck and Ayelet Sheffey report – a measure that’s overwhelmingly popular.


Published by amongthefray

News with a historical perspective. Fighting against misinformation, hate, and revisionist history.

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