Billionaires $5 trillion richer post-COVID – and run most of the world’s biggest companies


Billionaires around the world are now US$3.3 trillion (AU$5 trillion) richer than they were in 2020, with their wealth growing three times as fast as the rate of inflation, Oxfam’s Inequality Inc report has revealed.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder & Executive Chair and Laura Sánchez attend the Los Angeles premiere of Amazon Prime Video's "The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power" at The Culver Studios on August 15, 2022 in Culver City, California.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder & Executive Chair and Laura Sánchez.

For the biggest companies in the world – just like global billionaires – 2021 and 2022 were lucrative, with profits leaping 89%. 2023 data is set to shatter records as the most profitable yet, Oxfam reports.

More than 80% of those profits are used to benefit shareholders – and there’s a strong correlation between increasing billionaire wealth and rising corporate and monopoly power. In fact, the report found that, looking at the 50 biggest public corporations in the world, billionaires are either the principal shareholder or the CEO of 34% of them – with a total market cap of US$13.3 trillion. Seven out of 10 of the world’s biggest corporations have a billionaire CEO, or a billionaire as their principal shareholder.

Data from Oxfam also revealed just how much of the world’s financial assets are owned by the top 1%: “Using data from Wealth X, we have found that the richest 1% own 43% of all global financial assets,” the report stated. “In the Middle East, the richest 1% hold 48% of financial wealth; in Asia, the richest 1% own 50% of wealth; and in Europe, the richest 1% own 47% of wealth.”

In Australia, the wealth of the three richest, Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest and Harry Triguboff, has more than doubled since 2020, at a rate of $1.5 million per hour. The total wealth of all Australian billionaires reportedly increased by 70.5%, or $120 billion, in that same period. In the US, Jeff Bezos’s fortune of $252 billion was found to have increased by $49.2 billion since the beginning of the decade.

What’s more, 148 top corporations made on average $18.24 billion in annual profits, 52% up on the 3-year average. These corporations are worth $15.35 trillion, equivalent to more than the combined GDPs of all countries in Africa and Latin America.


Rich affecting the climate

According to the report, the richest 1% globally emit as much carbon pollution as the poorest two-thirds of the world. An analysis of 125 of the world’s richest billionaires found that, through their investments, they emit three million tonnes of CO2 each year – over a million times more than the average emissions of someone in the bottom 90% of humanity.

“Many of the world’s billionaires own, control, shape and financially profit from processes that emit greenhouse gases, and benefit when corporations seek to block progress on a fast and just transition, deny and spin the truth about climate change, and crush those who oppose fossil fuel extraction.”

Oxfam called on global governments to close the gap and rein in corporate power. For Australia, it suggested scrapping the stage-three tax cuts, which it claims will deepen inequality and increase inflation.

It also suggested ending fossil fuel subsidies, which it claims mostly benefit big corporations making big profits. In 2022-23, the government provided $11.1 billion in fossil fuel subsidies – money it says it could direct to tackling the climate crisis instead.

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