In a statement released ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda meetings (held virtually 25-19 January 2021), Oxfam Australia reveals Australia’s 31 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by nearly $85 billion since the global Covid-19 pandemic was declared.
According to Oxfam Australia Chief Executive, Lyn Morgain, with “hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs and entering an incredibly unstable employment market” the inequality between Australia’s elite and Australia’s poorest is “extreme” and “particularly shocking”.
Oxfam Australia reports that the staggering increase in fortune among the 31 billionaires would be enough to give the 2.5 million poorest Australians a one-off payment of just over $33,300 each.
This finding is significant particularly in light of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment cut last month from $1200 to $1000 a fortnight due to the Federal Government reportedly looking to “slowly phase out the economic lifeline”; with JobKeeper expected to end 28 March 2021 at this stage.
Additionally, JobSeeker payments – a critical lifeline for many – have reportedly been reduced from $250 (until 30 December 2020) to $150 per fortnight between 1 January and 31 March 2021.
“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,” says Ms Morgain.
Loss of JobKeeper a major impact on small business
The reduction and looming end of JobKeeper is causing significant distress among many small business owners/managers across all states and 10 business sectors, according to the January Sensis Business Index.
The survey reportedly shows that over the past three months, small business owners say the loss of JobKeeper will have a major impact on their business, with the number of small business owners experiencing this worry growing from 29% in November, to 31% in December, to now 39% in January.
“We can see over just three months that the attitude of business owners has changed,” says Sensis CEO John Allan.
“Despite a growing chorus of voices asking the Federal Government to keep JobKeeper in place for certain industries, it doesn’t look like the Government will change its mind and that will out a lot of these businesses under pressure to survive.”
A dire global outlook
While the Covid-19 has led countless disruptions around the world, a global survey of 295 economists from 79 countries, commissioned by Oxfam, reveals that 87% of respondents expect an ‘increase’ or a ‘major increase’ in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic.
And Australia is not immune to this.
Reportedly, the four Australian economists who took part in the survey agree that the Covid-19 crisis will lead to an increase or major increase in income inequality.
According to a statement by Oxfam Australia, the Australian economists say this will be the sharpest increase in inequality in at least 50 years – the widening gap impacting women and ethnic minorities the most, a worrying economic prediction.
“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 2.3 days,” says Ms Morgain.
“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.”
‘The greatest rise in inequality since records began’
Leading into the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda meetings, on 25 January 2021, Oxfam launched its global report, The Inequality Virus, which highlights how Covid-19 has exacerbated inequality and deepened poverty around the world.
“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,” says Ms Morgain.
“Globally, women and marginalised racial and ethnic groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis.
“They are more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry and more likely to be excluded from healthcare.
“The Australian Government must seize this opportunity to build a more equal, more inclusive, and greener economy that ends poverty and protects the planet.”
Ms Morgain adds that “the fight against inequality and poverty must be at the heart of economic recovery efforts”, saying that this “will help us build a better and more hopeful future that is fairer for all Australians”.