The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced frightening income inequalities - and their consequent impact on access to education, healthcare and all hope of a better life - between the world's super-rich and the hundreds of millions of people who live and die in abject poverty, non-profit group Oxfam said Monday in a report to be tabled at the Davos summit in Switzerland.
The report - titled The Inequality Virus - is sharply critical of "flawed and exploitative economic systems... entrenched inequality and oppression, namely patriarchy and structural racism, ingrained in white supremacy" and identifies these as "the root causes of injustice and poverty".
"Worldwide, billionaires' wealth increased by a staggering $3.9 trillion between March 18 and December 31, 2020... The world's 10 richest billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $540 billion over this period," the report said.
"At the same time, the pandemic saw hundreds of millions of people lose their jobs and face destitution and hunger... It is estimated that the total number of people living in poverty could have increased by between 200 million and 500 million," it added.
"The pandemic has exposed the fact that most people on Earth - who live on between $2 and $10 per day - are just one pay check away from penury," Oxfam said, while those with billions in their pockets purchased private jets when commercial travel was banned.
According to the report, the increase in the wealth - just since the crisis began - of the world's 10 richest billionaires is "more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty because of the virus, and to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone".
"The coronavirus crisis has shown us that for most of humanity there has never been a permanent exit from poverty and insecurity... makes no common, moral or economic sense to allow billionaires to profit from the crisis in the face of such suffering," the report stressed.
"Their increasing wealth should be used instead to save millions of lives and billions of livelihoods."
The report also stressed that women, people of colour and those from marginalised communities were among the worst affected.
Among the measures the report called for to fight back against the spectre of poverty and inequality that threatens to define our post-Covid world, is a change in taxation policies.
"Argentina showed the way by adopting a temporary solidarity wealth tax on the extremely wealthy that could generate over $3 billion to pay for coronavirus measures, including medical supplies and relief for people living in poverty and small businesses," the report said.