Visualising tech billionaires’ wealth gains during the pandemic

Elva Mankin

Apple boss Tim Cook has joined the billionaire’s club after the coronavirus pandemic helped the technology giant’s share price hit record highs.

His new-found status comes just days after Mark Zuckerberg became the third member of the so-called “Centibillionaire Club” when his personal wealth rose to $100 billion (£76bn).

The Facebook co-founder follows Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates in reaching a 12-figure net worth, with the Amazon and Microsoft founders also seeing their fortunes rise considerably in recent months.

US tech billionaires now occupy seven places in the list of the top 10 wealthiest people in the world.

The wealth of Bezos in particular has shot up at an unprecedented rate, as lockdown orders around the world saw people turn to the online retailer for food and entertainment.

Since the start of the year he has increased his wealth by more than $75bn – more than the entire individual net worth of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Both Brin and Page, who are the eighth and 10th richest people in the world, also saw considerable gains of around 10 per cent of their total fortune since January.

The wealth gains of the world’s 10 richest people since the start of the year means that their combined fortune is equivalent to the combined GDP of more than 90 countries.

With a combined wealth of $938bn, the top 10 richest people now ranks in the top 20 countries globally in terms of GDP – ahead of the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

Bezos by himself would rank as the 54th wealthiest nation, just behind New Zealand and Qatar.

The combined wealth of the 100 richest people has also risen since the start of the year, and at $3.3 trillion is now more than the GDP of the UK. Only the US, China, Japan and Germany rank higher.

Bezos’ fortune is now more than 400-times greater than the $458m fortune of the Queen of England.

It is so vast that it is impossible to compare it in any practical way to that of a millionaire’s wealth within this article.

The staggering disparity has led many to question whether such accumulation of wealth should be allowed to continue, particularly as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact millions of people around the world.

A recent report by the Swiss bank UBS found that 77 per cent of the richest families had seen their fortunes increase during the pandemic, while a separate report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the poorest families had seen their earnings decrease.

“Households in the poorest fifth – as measured by their pre-crisis income – have been hit hardest in terms of earning, with a fall in their median household earnings of around 15 per cent,” the report stated.

US Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled the “Make Billionaires Pay Act” last week in an attempt to address the wealth imbalance.

If successful, the legislation would force billionaires to pay 60 per cent tax on any gains made between the start of the pandemic and the end of the year.

Revenue generated from the bill could be used to help pay for healthcare costs of struggling American families, Sanders suggested.

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