OXFAM IRELAND has called for extreme wealth to be taxed as figures show that the country's nine billionaires have increased their wealth by 58% during the pandemic.
Between March 2020 and November 2021, Ireland's billionaires increased their wealth from €18.3 billion to €49.7 billion, according the the charity's Inequality Kills report, published today.
The new report details how inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds, based on deaths globally from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger and climate breakdown.
Globally, the world's ten richest men more than doubled their wealth from €610 billion to €1.3 trillion during the first two years of the pandemic. That represents a rate of €1.13 billion a day.
The report also found that twenty of the richest billionaires are estimated, on average, to be emitting as much as 8,000 times more carbon than the billion poorest people.
Oxfam Ireland estimates that a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning more than €4 million could raise €4 billion in tax revenue, with the same rate on Irish billionaires being able to raise a little over €0.7 million.
CEO of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said the "billionaires have had a terrific pandemic."
"Central banks pumped trillions of euros into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom," he continued.
"Now is the time to redress that imbalance through progressive wealth taxes, along with other progressive measures such as debt relief and cancellation. Within the EU, the Irish Government could lead by example by introducing a wealth tax of one and a half percent on the very wealthiest which would have a positive effect on Ireland’s society as it recovers from the pandemic."
He said it is right that those who gained most from the pandemic contribute to the recovery from the pandemic.
"The funds generated by a wealth tax could have a transformative effect on funding Ireland’s recovery from the pandemic and could be targeted at those areas most in need –homeless people and people trapped in the increasing poverty trap of private rental accommodation, especially lone parents.
"It could be used to modernise our struggling health system, help advance gender equality by addressing funding gaps in the care economy and fund a just transition to a zero-carbon society.
The report also said that inequality between countries expected to rise for the first time in a generation, with vaccine inequality being an issue coming to the fore.
Speaking on the issue of vaccine inequality, Clarken continued:
"Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people. This is having life and death consequences around the world.
"The world’s response to the pandemic has unleashed this economic violence particularly acutely across racial, marginalised and gendered lines.
As Covid-19 spikes, this turns to surges of gender-based violence, even as more unpaid care is heaped upon women and girls. Most poignantly, following the horrific recent murder in Tullamore, the Inequality Kills report shows that violence against women has soared during the pandemic. Yet gender-based violence has accounted for only 0.0002% of global pandemic response funding."
Aside from greater taxing of wealth, the report says that governments "must centre their economic strategies around greater equality."
"This means far greater economic equality - alongside goals to pursue gender and racial equality - and it must be supported by explicit, timebound, and measurable milestones."
It says that focus towards universal healthcare would save millions of lives by 2030, and urged countries to provide funding for adaptation, loss and damage for climate change issues.
A waiver of intellectual property rights would also help lower and middle-income countries manufacture Covid-19 vaccines themselves, Oxfam says.
Tackling of sexist laws and issues surrounding gender-based violence would also improve equality for women around the world.
"Laws that already exist must be implemented but, crucially, new legislation is required—including laws to ensure a minimum of 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and the progressive realization of one year of paid parental leave, as well as laws to meet the rights of all carers and to provide them with a living wage," it said.
The full report can be found here.