The leveler with the uneven effect

22. Apr. 2020

Lessons (to be) learnt from living with Covid-19 (#9)

by Klaus Schuch

It is true: the virus can just hit us all - the youth in the Moria refugee camp as well as the Prime Minister on Downing Street, but the crisis triggered by the virus is by no means equal. It increases inequality. We are observing this across social strata and also across the globe. The poor are more affected than the wealthier. Those in need of care even more than those who can largely rely on themselves.

We do not yet know how the virus will rage in Africa, but the first signs from Latin America give cause for concern.

However, even in the so-called free west, it can be seen that the different architecture of social systems makes a big difference. Unemployment is different in the USA than in Europe and unemployment benefits are different in Austria (namely low) than in the Netherlands or Denmark (where they, however, also decrease more sharply over time). It also makes a big difference what job you have and what industry you work in. The prospects for the tourism industry are terrible. The existence of artists is already threatened.

Things that have not worked so far are now becoming even clearer (e.g. that we in Austria mostly have a skeptical attitude towards science, which led to the fact preventing scientists - despite adhering to the GDPR- to access and link important data from public registries which would be urgently needed to better understand the diffusion and effects of Covid-19).

The public health crisis will probably be over if we have a vaccination (in a year?). Hopefully the social crisis will ease then, but the economic damage will continue to concern us. This is linked to the question of distribution and the question of where does the money come from that could even be distributed. The austerity policy in the wake of the so-called financial crisis (which has actually become a social and economic crisis - the name financial crisis obscures it a little) was bad enough and far from being as successful as some politicians postulate. A second austerity period seems hardly economically manageable to me. I also believe that it is necessary to tie economic recovery measures to conditionalities that e.g. can be identified through the framework of the European Green Deal. Otherwise, we can bury the intent to contain climate change below 1.5 degrees. However, conditionalities with regard to resilience and ethics (e.g. no subsidies for tax avoiders) also appear appropriate if one does not want to jeopardize social cohesion.

PS: On an individual level, it seems to me - caused by the stress induced by the crisis - that mental predispositions do not tend to become more equal but rather reinforced too. The idiosyncracy (to be polite) of the American president may be such an isolated case, but even in the bubble made for me by Facebook, there seems to be a hundredfold individual and collective strengthening effect of predispositions among my "FB-friends". I am curious how we will meet physically (anyway only with a fraction of the "FB- friends"). I'm still looking forward to it.

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Tags: Corona Virus

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