The wealth of Ireland’s billionaires has grown by over €3.3bn since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Oxfam.
The charity’s Inequality Virus Report found that while the world’s richest people were able to recoup their pandemic losses by the end of last year, it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest people to recover from the financial hit of Covid-19.
Globally, the world’s 10 richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began.
Oxfam says the Covid-19 has the unique potential to increase economic inequality worldwide, and not just in a specific part of the world.
The charity says its report supported by the work of 295 economists from 79 countries, including Ireland. 87% predicted an increase or major increase in inequality in their home country.
Seven of the eight Irish economists included in the survey predicted inequality would rise here.
According to Oxfam, the report lays bare how current economic systems have allowed the wealthiest “to amass wealth in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression while billions of people are struggling to make ends meet”.
The charity also said its research demonstrated that pandemic was deepening long-standing economic, racial and gender divides.
Jim Clarken, chief executive of Oxfam Ireland, said that, as a result of the pandemic, the world was preparing to see “the greatest rise in inequality since records began.”
He said: “Around the world, the impact of Covid-19 is magnifying and exacerbating existing inequalities – as well as racial and gender divides.
Mr Clarken said the availability of and access to Covid-19 vaccines was one of "the most extreme and unjust indicators of inequality" in the world at present.
“Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in safety, while those on the frontline— our shop assistants, healthcare workers, and factory workers — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table, and often do not have benefits such as paid sick leave.”
The half a trillion dollars which the world's richest men accumulated since the beginning of the pandemic, Oxfam says, would be more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone on the plant, “and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty.”
Concurrently, the pandemic has created the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work.
Our #InequalityVirus report is live!— Oxfam Ireland (@OxfamIreland) January 25, 2021
Coinciding with the start of @wef's #DavosAgenda, our report shows how #Covid19 has the potential to 📈 economic inequality in almost every country at once, the 1st time this has happened since records began.
PR (RT): https://t.co/rBh02oSpkU pic.twitter.com/ey0VrMXDNr
“In Ireland, the fallout of the pandemic on employment has disproportionately hit young adults as well as people in low-paid occupations, all of whom are more likely to be paying rent,” Mr Clarken said.
Mr Clarken said that women and marginalised racial and ethnic groups were "yet again bearing the brunt" of the impact.
He said that these groups were far more likely to be pushed into poverty, hunger, and more likely to be excluded from healthcare.
“Long before Covid-19 disrupted our lives, in Ireland and across the world, women sustained our societies through their paid and unpaid care work," he said.
"However, there is a lack of attention to gender equality in much of the economic decision making that has taken place since the onset of the pandemic,” he added.
Oxfam says world governments have a duty to use the pandemic to build a more equal inclusive society - one with protects people living in poverty.