Jeff Bezos couldn’t give every Amazon worker £90,000

27 January 2023
What was claimed

Jeff Bezos could give every Amazon worker in the world a £90,000 bonus and he would still be as rich as he was at the start of the pandemic.

Our verdict

This is not true. It would cost about $172 billion to give £90,000 to all 1.54 million Amazon workers. Mr Bezos’s total wealth is reportedly about $120 billion, according to one recent estimate.

Jeff Bezos could give every Amazon worker in the world a £90,000 bonus and he would still be as rich as he was at the start of the pandemic.

The Labour MP Zarah Sultana said on her Instagram, Facebook and TikTok accounts on Wednesday that Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos would be able to give every worker at the company £90,000 and still retain his pre-pandemic wealth.

She also said the same on her Twitter account, although the tweet has since been deleted.

This claim is not correct, as Ms Sultana’s office told Full Fact she now accepts. According to Amazon’s accounts for the third quarter of 2022, it employs 1,544,000 people in full- or part-time jobs around the world.

Giving each of them £90,000 would therefore cost about £139 billion, or $172 billion. This is more than Mr Bezos’s total estimated wealth, which one recent report has put at about $120 billion.

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What Ms Sultana meant

When Full Fact contacted Ms Sultana, her office agreed that she had made a mistake.

It said that she had intended to describe a bonus paid to every Amazon worker in the UK. Ms Sultana has since updated the captions on her Instagram and Facebook posts, and deleted her Tiktok post.

The response from Ms Sultana’s office included calculations, which it said supported this claim about the UK workforce, based on a Forbes estimate of Mr Bezos’s increased wealth between 2019 and 2022 (about $40 billion). There are 75,000 Amazon staff in the UK, so paying £90,000 to all of them would cost around £6.75 billion ($8.4 billion).

However there are various estimates for Mr Bezos’s wealth over time, which we are unable to verify. This means it’s unclear whether Ms Sultana’s figures stand up. More recent estimates from Bloomberg, which are produced daily, suggest that Mr Bezos’s current wealth is about the same as it was before the pandemic, following a sharp fall in 2022. (Forbes also suggests Mr Bezos’s wealth has fallen, with its latest estimate putting it at $125 billion.)

Bloomberg put Mr Bezos’s wealth at $120 billion on the day that Ms Sultana was speaking.

On a few days in early 2020, Bloomberg estimated it to be lower than $111.6 billion, meaning the rise in his wealth since then would have been enough to pay $8.4 billion to UK Amazon workers.

However, for most of this period, including the day on which the World Health Organisation declared a Covid-19 pandemic, Bloomberg estimated it to be higher than this, meaning the change in Mr Bezos’s wealth would not fund such a bonus.

This is only one set of estimates, and we cannot be sure of Mr Bezos’s exact wealth, which can fluctuate by several billion dollars over short periods.

Ms Sultana's office told us that they also believe that her original claim—that Mr Bezos could give every Amazon worker globally £90,000 and still retain his pre-pandemic wealth—was true in September 2020, when Oxfam made a similar claim. We have not attempted to verify whether that claim was true in September 2020 ourselves.

How the claim spread

The Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire, tweeted the same claim about Amazon’s global workforce on Wednesday, attributing it to the GMB union, which represents Amazon workers who have recently gone on strike. The Labour MP Stella Creasy shared Mr Maguire’s tweet.

We can’t find evidence of GMB saying this, and the union told us that it did not calculate the £90,000 figure. We have asked Mr Maguire where the figure came from, and approached Ms Creasy for comment.

Another Labour MP, Ian Lavery, made the same claim on his Twitter account, but did not say that the GMB was the source of the figure. Mr Lavery subsequently deleted the tweet following contact from Full Fact.

In January 2021, GMB did make a similar claim—that Mr Bezos could give every Amazon worker £43,000 with the additional wealth he had recently gained from rises in Amazon’s share price.

However, Amazon’s value has since fallen back to much nearer its pre-pandemic level.

It is possible that some of those sharing the £90,000 figure heard it during a news bulletin on BBC Radio 4 [2:05:44] on Wednesday, during which a GMB member said: “If Jeff gave every employee on earth that works for him £90,000 he would still have more money in the bank than he had before the pandemic.”

Mr Bezos has said that he does plan to give most of his wealth to charity during his lifetime.

Image courtesy of Roger Harris.

Update 27 January 2023

This article was updated to show that Oxfam made a similar claim to Ms Sultana’s in September 2020. We have not attempted to verify whether that claim was true then.

We took a stand for good information.

As detailed in our fact check, Zarah Sultana MP deleted her tweet and TikTok video, and updated the captions on her Instagram and Facebook posts. 

Ian Lavery MP also deleted his tweet.

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