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Billionaires Made $5 Trillion in the Past Year—and Their Wealth Is Growing at an ‘Unprecedented' Rate

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The world's billionaires are accumulating wealth at a rate "unprecedented in human history," according to a recent report from Oxfam International.

The charitable organization's "Inequality Kills" report found that the planet's 2,755 billionaires saw their cumulative wealth increase by $5 trillion — a sum greater than the market caps of Apple and Amazon combined — since March 2021, from $8.6 trillion to $13.8 trillion.

"Billionaire wealth has grown more since the pandemic began than it has in the last 14 years," the report says. That growth has been fueled by government intervention around the world, which has propped up economies and driven up stock prices, the report says.

The growth in wealth has been so great over such a short period of time that "wealth concentration at the very top now surpasses the peak of the Gilded Age of the late 19th century," Oxfam says.

Indeed, since 1995 the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world have seen 19 times more wealth growth than the bottom 50%, the report says.

In 2021 alone, the 10 richest people in the world added more than $400 billion to their fortunes, led by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's $121 billion gain. During the first two years of the pandemic, the 10 richest people doubled their collective fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion — a rate of $15,000 per second, according to Oxfam.

"If these 10 men were to lose 99.999% of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99% of all the people on this planet," said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam's executive director. "They now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people." 

The report estimates that there are now 163 million more people living in poverty than there were before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, citing data from The World Bank, which projects that poverty levels won't return to their pre-pandemic state until at least 2030.

Oxfam estimates that inequality contributes "to the deaths of at least 21,300 people each day" as a result of the lack of access to food and health care in poor countries.

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