Australia’s 31 billionaires have seen their fortunes grow by nearly $85-billion since the global pandemic was declared, charity group Oxfam has revealed on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda meetings.
The organisation calls it a “staggering increase” that would be enough to give the 2.5 million poorest Australians a one-off payment of just over $33,300 each.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive, Lyn Morgain, said that in the context of the country’s first recession in almost 30 years, this extreme inequality was particularly shocking.
‘Elite’ group saw incomes recover quickly
“As hundreds of thousands of people were losing their jobs and entering an incredibly unstable employment market, this small group of elite Australians saw their incomes recover very quickly, before beginning their upwards trajectory once more,” Morgain stated.
She believed that the Federal Government’s cut this month to the JobSeeker payment, a critical lifeline for millions of Australians thrown into unemployment, was devastating.
“While the Government should be congratulated for acting quickly to implement wage subsidies and other social protection measures last year, the inappropriate and unfair reversal of the increase to JobSeeker payments is a cruel blow to the poorest Australians and, according to unions, has left 1.4-million people living on as little as $51 a day,” Morgain said.
A global survey of 295 economists from 79 countries, commissioned by Oxfam, revealed that 87% of respondents expect an ‘increase’ or a ‘major increase’ in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic.
Sharpest increase in inequality in 50 years
The four Australian economists who took part in the survey agreed the coronavirus crisis would lead to an increase in income inequality. They said it would be the sharpest increase in inequality in at least 50 years and that the widening gap would impact women and ethnic minorities most.
All four experts believed Government didn’t have an adequate plan in place to address the issue.
Morgain said inequality in Australia was highlighted when comparing the incomes of Australia’s 10 highest-paid CEOs with healthcare workers, most notably registered nurses.
Remarkable gap between nurse – CEO pay
“We found that it would take a nurse 259 years to earn what a top Australian CEO earns, while a CEO could earn the annual salary of a nurse in 1.3 days,” she explained.
“The critical nature of the work of all of our healthcare workers who continue to tackle this crisis, as well as how that work has been undervalued in the past, has rarely been more apparent in the Australian community as it is now.
“This global emergency has truly laid bare the entrenched injustices of our current economic system, which only serves to deepen inequality, particularly in times of crisis,” Morgain said.