Just 10 billionaires could pay to vaccinate every single person in the world against COVID-19 and still come out with more money than they had at the beginning of the pandemic, according to a study from Oxfam, a global charity organization that fights and studies global poverty.
COVID-19 has done more than wreak havoc on the health of the world. It’s also torn apart the health of many people’s wallets — that is, if you’re a part of the 99%, rather than the 1%. And this study basically confirms it. While billionaire’s wallets did take a hit at the beginning of the pandemic — the elite cohort lost about 30 percent of their wealth — they gained it back and then some really, really quickly.
Unlike the rest of the world, billionaires experienced record wealth growth while millions of people across the world suffer from hunger, unemployment, and financial instability. In fact, the Oxfam study revealed, Jeff Bezos alone could have paid all 800,000+ Amazon employees a bonus of over $100,000 and still have as much money as he did before the pandemic began. (It’s worth noting that while tens of thousands of Amazon workers got sick in warehouses, Bezos gained billions in net worth, while cutting the $2/hour extra hazard pay by June, well before the pandemic had even reached its worst peak.)
Bezos, Elon Musk, and 8 other billionaires added $540 billion to their net worth in just 10 months, while global estimates reveal that 200 million people will likely fall into poverty because of COVID-19 across the world, including in wealthy countries. Oxfam also says that it will take the global poor over a decade to earn back what they have lost as a result of the pandemic — sharply highlighting the financial inequalities that existed before the pandemic and have since been deeply exacerbated by it.
Of that $540 billion made by 10 different people, only $80 billion would be needed, per Oxfam, to help keep people living above the poverty line for a year during COVID-19. If the 10 billionaires pitched in just $141.2 billion, they could administer both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to every single person on earth — and still have more money than they did before the pandemic.
The 10 richest people in the world acting out of the goodness of their hearts to end the pandemic is, of course, extremely unlikely to happen. It also wouldn’t fundamentally alter the wealth inequality that plagues the globe, where a small number of people have an inordinate amount of wealth. The study reveals just how little it would cost the richest people to help the rest of the world if only they would.