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Billionaires' Wealth Rises As 255 Million Jobs Are Lost In A Pandemic

The pandemic has worsened income inequality, with the world's richest people recouping their losses from COVID-19 closures in nine months, while the number of people living in poverty has doubled to more than 500 million, according to a new report from the anti-poverty group, Oxfam.

Nearly 9% of total work hours were lost last year compared to employment levels at the end of 2019, before the pandemic shut down the economy, according to a separate report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations. That's the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs lost worldwide, or roughly four times greater than the impact of the Great Recession of 2009, the analysis found.

Billionaires' Wealth Rises As 255 Million Jobs Are Lost In A Pandemic

It could take a decade for the world's poorest to regain their financial footing from the devastation wrought by the pandemic, according to the Oxfam study, which says the new coronavirus has accelerated a steady trend toward greater income inequality. Oxfam's report was released to coincide with the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda, which will be held online this year in lieu of its traditional gathering of global movers and shakers in the Swiss ski town of Davos.

America's richest people have seen their wealth skyrocket during the pandemic by more than $ 1 trillion, thanks to a booming stock market and a K-shaped rally that has benefited the rich, while people poorer people have struggled with lost wages and jobs and future opportunities. It is a phenomenon of rich against poor that is reproducing all over the world. Oxfam describes the impact of the pandemic as "the largest increase in inequality since records began."

The International Labor Organization said the crisis has been the most severe at work since the Great Depression in the 1930s. "Its impact is much greater than that of the 2009 global financial crisis," said the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder.

The employment consequences tracked by the ILO were split almost evenly between the reduction in working hours and the "unprecedented" job losses, he added.

Oxfam called on the Biden administration and other governments around the world to address the inequalities caused by the pandemic. In the United States, he said, a "multi-trillion dollar economic recovery plan" is needed to help the tens of millions of Americans suffering the economic impact of the pandemic. President Joe Biden has proposed a $ 1.9 trillion aid package, although Congress has not yet accepted it.

"Now is not the time to play on the edges. We need big and bold action for a more dignified future where everyone can prosper, not just survive," said Paul O'Brien, Oxfam America vice president, in a statement.

Billionaires' Wealth Rises As 255 Million Jobs Are Lost In A Pandemic

Economists in 79 countries surveyed by Oxfam said they projected their countries would experience an "increase" to a "significant increase" in income inequality due to the pandemic. The economists who were surveyed included Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Jayati Ghosh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley.

Higher unemployment for women and people of color

The pandemic has especially highlighted the inequalities faced by women and people of color, who have suffered higher rates of unemployment during the pandemic. They are also more likely to work in industries with higher exposure to COVID-19 risks, such as service-based jobs in healthcare and restaurants. Women make up 7 out of 10 workers in the global health and social care workforce, Oxfam noted.

"Women and marginalized racial and ethnic groups are the most affected by this crisis. They are more likely to fall into poverty, more likely to go hungry and more likely to be excluded from health care," Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International said in the statement.

The job slump translates into a loss of income of $ 3.7 trillion worldwide, what the ILO's Ryder called an "extraordinary figure", with women and youth being the hardest hit.

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