"The pandemic increased both economic and health inequalities due to a range of
intersecting factors, which compounded each other. The wealthy were not only
able to keep their well-paid jobs but also benefited from soaring stock markets
and rising house prices. Low-paid workers were, in contrast, more likely to
have jobs in the sectors that suspended activities, including hospitality and
tourism. They were also more likely to work in essential services such as
nursing, policing, teaching, cleaning, waste removal and as shop assistants –
in all of which occupations, they had a higher likelihood of being exposed to
COVID-19. The risk of contagion was further elevated by their living in more
crowded homes, apartment buildings with communal lifts and entrances, and on
their being more reliant on public transport.
As COVID-19 peaked in their neighbourhoods, they were also more likely to be
locked down, which further undermined incomes. Weaker health facilities in
their neighbourhoods meant mortality rates were higher, with a higher incidence
of existing health problems also increasing their vulnerability.
A higher share of poor workers are in precarious hourly paid employment, making
them less able to access social security, health insurance and emergency
benefits that could cushion the decline in income and the effect of COVID-19 on
their lives. The pandemic has come on top of a decade of austerity and
stagnating wages in the UK, US and many other countries, deepening the hardship
endured by growing numbers of people.
Taxes that fund redistributive spending – in the form of health and education,
as well as social security, housing, child, disability and other benefits – can
all significantly help overcome inequality. Before taking account of taxes and
government spending, inequality is almost as high in France as in the US and
UK, and even higher in Ireland, which without redistribution would be the most
unequal of the world’s 34 richest countries. However, in Ireland and France,
taxation and redistribution have reduced inequality to levels that are well
below that in the UK."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics