Socialist Worker

Pandemic plunder leads to record number of billionaires worldwide

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2773

Collective billionaire wealth increased 5.7 percent to over £7.3 trillion during the pandemic

Collective billionaire wealth increased 5.7 percent to over £7.3 trillion during the pandemic` (Pic: Tim Sanders)


For the first time ever, the world had more than 3,000 billionaires in 2020.

Analysis by Wealth-X—which claims to be “the world’s leading provider of data and insight on the wealthy”—shows just how much the superrich have plundered during coronavirus.

It finds “collective billionaire wealth increased 5.7 percent” to over £7.3 trillion. As the authors note, this is “a striking development given the upheaval of the pandemic and the deepest contraction in world economic output for a generation”.

They prospered while ordinary people faced job losses, uncertainty and wage cuts.

A total of 670 individuals became billionaires in 2020. The report says “the significant number of new billionaires reflects a year that witnessed the largest absolute growth in billionaire individuals since our records began in 2012”.

Wealth-X honestly admits that governments funnelling money to corporations and the ultra-rich played a key role.

“Huge monetary stimulus from global central banks and expansive government support measures propelled a dramatic rally in financial markets, after an initial pandemic-driven collapse,” it says.

“Almost all major equity indices ended the year posting healthy returns, with other asset classes also rebounding strongly.”

The report adds that coronavirus “delivered a windfall to billionaire wealth”. This was “boosted by the flood of monetary stimulus and swelling profits in key sectors that coined a new wave of younger, self-made billionaires”.

Excess 

There has been a growth of “inequality” among billionaires. Wealth-X says that among them, a total of 212 individuals each held a net worth in excess of $10 billion (£7.3 billion). This elite group comprised just 6.6 percent of billionaires, but held almost 36 percent of global billionaire wealth.

This sum of £2.65 trillion is “equivalent to just shy of the annual market value of the German economy, the fourth largest in the world”. “Even more exclusive still, one third of this total was held by just 19 individuals each with a fortune of more than $50bn (36.5 billion),” says the report.

‘Tax the rich’ is just the start of what’s needed
‘Tax the rich’ is just the start of what’s needed
  Read More

Most billionaires are not tech pioneers or “innovators”. Wealth-X notes, “The banking and finance sector remains by far the most important among the global billionaire population. It is the primary industry focus for just over 20 percent of individuals.

“Billionaire representation in industrial conglomerates was ranked second, with a moderate gap then to real estate and technology.”

It says this is likely to continue “given the hugely enhanced role of the world’s central banks in underpinning asset markets”.

What’s extraordinary, is that all these figures are all likely to be an underestimate.

Analysis by the charity Oxfam a month ago found that the world’s billionaires have a collective net worth of nearly £10 trillion. This was up from £5.9 trillion at the beginning of the pandemic—a gain of nearly 69 percent.

Oxfam added, “A one-off 99 percent levy on billionaires’ wealth gains during the pandemic could pay for everyone on Earth to be vaccinated against Covid-19”. And it could “provide a £15,000 cash grant to all unemployed workers”.

Read the full Wealth-X analysis at bit.ly/WealthX2021

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.