Wealth

In the Time of Coronavirus, There Are More Billionaires Now Than Ever Before

The number of new billionaires is unprecedented.
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As economies fall and millions face unemployment, one group of people has largely escaped the dire economic ramifications of COVID-19—billionaires. And it’s a fact that’s caused more ire than awe.

According to Forbes’ 2021 Rich List, more billionaires were created in 2020 and 2021 than ever before, with the current population at 2,755 billionaires. The combined wealth of this unprecedented, record-breaking number of billionaires is worth roughly $13.1 trillion. To put that into perspective, that’s bigger than the entire GDP of China, which is currently at $12.2 trillion. This is up by a whopping $5 trillion from the $8 trillion in value the group held on the 2020 list.

Despite the global consequences of COVID-19, a handful of people were favored by struggling economies as this year added 493 newly minted billionaires to the Forbes list, with 210 coming from China and Hong Kong and 98 coming from the U.S. According to Forbes, one billionaire was made every 17 hours in 2020.

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Almost all of the rich got richer on the Forbes list, with 86 percent of billionaires experiencing increased wealth than a year ago. Jeff Bezos saw his net worth grow by $64 billion in 2020 as Amazon demand spiked during lockdown. He’s now worth $177 billion. Meanwhile Elon Musk, Bezos’ rival in the space race, earned a whopping $126.4 billion in 2020 due to surging Tesla stock prices. He’s now worth $126.4 billion.

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Many saw their net worths spike thanks to initial public offerings, surging stock prices, and the astronomical rise of cryptocurrencies, but a small group of billionaires got their earnings from something else entirely: COVID-19-related commerce.

To be exact, 40 founders, investors, and CEOs of companies that produced everything from face masks, gowns, PPEs, COVID-19 vaccines, COVID-19 tests, pulse oximeters, and more witnessed their wealth skyrocket until it propelled them onto the Forbes list.

Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization and World Bank estimate that 492 million individuals are currently unemployed worldwide, including a group of 84 million individuals who were part of the spike in unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Forbes’ annual rich list analyzes the investments and assets of the world’s wealthiest people, providing an estimation of the wealth of the wealthy. While it can dazzle readers with all its rankings and billions, the list also shines a light on just how large the wealth divide is and just how concerning the issue of income inequality has become.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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