Major global supermarkets have reported a 123% spike in dividend payouts during the first eight months of Covid-19 pandemic as no restrictions were imposed on essential services which allowed such businesses to operate round the clock.
According to a report released by Oxfam on Tuesday, dividend payouts by prominent international superstores rose to $22.3 billion during the first eight months of the pandemic against $10 billion in the corresponding period of previous year.
“During the pandemic, listed supermarkets analysed by Oxfam distributed nearly all (an average of 98%) of their net profits to their owners and shareholders,” the report said. “They spent around $11.3 billion in Covid-19 related protection measures.”
Privately owned supermarkets in Germany and the Netherlands also profited from extra sales during this period but due to lack of financial reporting by a majority of the firms, it was unclear who benefitted from the earnings.
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Market capitalisation of the listed supermarkets rose by $101 billion (between March and December 2020) compared to an increase of $75 billion in 2019.
“However, there is no evidence that these supermarkets provided adequate support to alleviate the health impacts or loss of income suffered by workers and producers in their supply chains as a result of Covid-19,” the report said.
“Of all the supermarkets, only UK’s Tesco and Germany’s Rewe published a gender policy and the actions that they will take to improve the position of women in their supply chains.”
The report stated that hardly any of the supermarkets paid a good amount of Covid-related support to the workers and overseas farmers, who continued to work throughout the crisis to keep supply chains stable.
The report also revealed the continuation of “systemic” exploitation of women in supermarkets’ supply chains.
“As consumers, we were all grateful for the lifeline that supermarkets provided us through their brave frontline staff and overseas suppliers,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher.
“But in their boardrooms, the bosses have continued business as usual, putting the interests of wealthy shareholders, owners and directors ahead of their workers and suppliers.”
The report also found that exploitation and discrimination of workers and producers in their supply chains remained pervasive and systemic.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2021.