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Super-rich thrive as COVID-19 pushes millions into poverty

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 17 January 2022 00:01 GMT

Student passengers show their nucleic acid testing results to workers in protective suits, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, to enter Xian North Railway Station as the Spring Festival travel rush kicks off ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Xian, Shaanxi province, China January 17, 2022. cnsphoto via REUTERS

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A new billionaire has been created every 26 hours during the pandemic, deepening the world's wealth divides

By Emma Batha

LONDON, Jan 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's 10 wealthiest people more than doubled their fortunes to $1.5 trillion during the pandemic as poverty rates soared, according to a study released by a charity on Monday ahead of a high-profile World Economic Forum (WEF) event.

Heads of state will join chief executives and other prominent figures this week to discuss the planet's most pressing issues - from climate change to COVID-19 vaccine inequity - at the WEF's Davos Agenda 2022 conference.

The online meeting will be a springboard for the WEF's annual summit, which normally sees the world's rich and powerful converge on the Swiss mountain resort of Davos each winter, but which has been moved to the summer due to the pandemic.

Here are some figures on global inequality:

- Billionaires have seen a record surge in their wealth during the pandemic, according to aid agency Oxfam.

- The 10 richest people have boosted their fortunes by $15,000 a second or $1.3 billion a day during the pandemic.

- They own more than the world's poorest 3.1 billion people combined.

- A new billionaire has been created every 26 hours since the pandemic began.

- More than 160 million people are estimated to have been pushed into poverty during the health crisis.

- Inequality between nations is expected to rise for the first time in a generation, and is also growing within countries.

- Wealthy nations are rebounding faster. Output in rich countries will likely return to pre-pandemic trends by 2023, but will be down 4% on average in developing countries, according to the World Bank.

- In 2023, per capita incomes are likely to remain below 2019 levels in 40 developing countries, the bank says.

- Inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,300 people each day - one person every four seconds, according to Oxfam's report.

- An estimated 5.6 million people in poor countries die each year due to lack of access to healthcare, while hunger kills more than 2.1 million annually, the report said.

- The proportion of people with COVID-19 who die from the illness in developing countries has been estimated at roughly double that of rich countries.

- Just over 7% of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose compared with more than 75% in high-income countries.

- The wealthiest 1% of the world emits more than twice as much planet-warming carbon dioxide as the bottom 50%.

- If unchecked, climate change could push up to 132 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, according to World Bank estimates.

- The pandemic has set back global progress towards gender equality, too. It will take nearly 136 years for women to be on an equal footing with men - up from 99 years pre-pandemic.

Sources: Oxfam, World Bank, McKinsey Global Institute, World Economic Forum

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(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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