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The Financial Express

It could take decade for poor to recover Covid-induced economic losses, Oxfam report says

| Updated: January 29, 2021 12:24:21


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Low income people in Dhaka’s Eskaton area waiting for people to come and provide some relief assistance for them during the government-enforced lockdown in April — Focus Bangla/Files Low income people in Dhaka’s Eskaton area waiting for people to come and provide some relief assistance for them during the government-enforced lockdown in April — Focus Bangla/Files

A new report by the Oxfam said on Monday that it could take more than a decade for the poor people across the globe to recover from the economic losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In its report titled ‘The Inequality Virus,’ the United Kingdom-based charity also revealed that the world's 1,000 richest people have recouped their Covid-induced losses within just nine months since the beginning of the pandemic.

The report shows that Covid-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.

“Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly White male, billionaires to bounce back,” the report added. 

In Asia, 711 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by $1.5 trillion dollars since March, enough to give all 157 million people forced into poverty by Covid-19 in the region a cheque of $9,000 each.

In South Asia—the poorest subregion—101 billionaires have seen their fortunes rise by $174 billion dollars since March, enough to give all 93 million people forced into poverty by Covid-19 in the region a cheque of $1,800 each.

The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began—more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic.

At the same time, the pandemic has ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work, it continued.

Globally, women are overrepresented in the low-paid precarious professions that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. If women were represented at the same rate as men in these sectors, 112 million women would no longer be at high risk of losing their incomes or jobs.

Women also make up roughly 70 per cent of the global health and social care workforce− essential but often poorly paid jobs that put them at greater risk from Covid-19, it read.

A temporary tax on excess profits made by the 32 global corporations that have gained the most during the pandemic could have raised $104 billion in 2020.

This is enough to provide unemployment benefits for all workers and financial support for all children and elderly people in low- and middle-income countries.

Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: "We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began. The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus.”

Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic —shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors— are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table, added Gabriela Bucher.

Countries in Asia have taken several bold steps during the pandemic which include progressive policies unthinkable before the crisis.

For countries in Asia, the fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic recovery efforts. Governments must ensure everyone has access to a Covid-19 vaccine and financial support if they lose their job.

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