Covid-19 makes eliminating inequality more important than ever
Global inequality update
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The author is a professor of globalization and development at Oxford University and author of ‘Rescue: From a global crisis to a better world‘
What the climate emergency, the Covid-19 crisis and the collapse of Afghanistan have in common is the failure of major powers to work together. These crises have exacerbated potential inequalities in health, nutrition, gender, race, and income. Many of them are defined by geography. Compared to a world where globalization produces a “flat” or a “death of distance”, location is more important than ever.
The global crisis has a particularly serious impact on the poor. In Africa, the crops and livelihoods of people living on the most vulnerable lands are the first to be destroyed by climate change.And only 1.8% People in poor countries received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, most of the people There are in rich countries.
The pandemic has also exacerbated economic inequality.Although rich countries have discovered 17 tons In order to maintain their businesses, keep jobs, and strengthen safety nets, poor countries have little ability to do so.As a result, more than 100 million people were Fall into extreme poverty There are also about 118 million people who own Facing chronic hunger, Making the economic consequences of Covid-19 more deadly than the virus itself.
The failure of rich countries to fulfill their pledges to aid poor countries has led to the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris pledges to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Climate, COVID-19, and conflict crises have not only widened the gap between rich and poor countries; they have also exacerbated inequality within high-income countries.In the UK, almost all people in the poorest 10% Four times The probability of dying from Covid is the same as that of living with the richest person.There may be 1 million people Expand the ranks of the unemployed When the British government cancels support for businesses in the coming months.
In rich countries, government spending may alleviate economic pain, but after the calm caused by the blockade, 2023 may become a year of economic recession. Peak carbon emissions The demand for coal, steel and cement has soared due to infrastructure spending.
Globalization is the source The biggest improvement in livelihoods In human history.But failure to manage it will lead to a spiral Systemic risks, such as cyber attacks and financial crises. The rise of nationalism undermines cooperation, slowing growth and recurring crises, leading to increased inequality. This has aroused anger at an increasingly unfair system and deepened support for populist politicians who offer false promises to protect citizens from global threats.
It was the anger and inequality of the financial crisis that laid the foundation for Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory in the United States, and the rise of extremist politics in Europe. A divided society leads to a more divided world. A divided world is dangerous.
Everything may not be lost. The upcoming UN General Assembly and COP26 climate summit are one of the opportunities to change direction. This requires overcoming the regression of nationalism, first of all, an effective commitment to the global distribution of vaccines and a global green new deal.
We need to learn from the lessons of a century ago, when the roaring large-scale policy mistakes of the 1920s led to the rise of nationalism, widening of inequality and global mutual accusations, which ultimately led to World War II. Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were determined to ensure that future disasters were avoided, which meant that in this major earthquake, a new world order was created. The United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, and the Marshall Plan aim to provide peace and economic reconstruction abroad, as well as a welfare state to solve domestic inequality. The result is “the golden age of capitalism.”
What needs to be done now is not to recover from the pandemic to our previous state, nor to reset to the pre-Covid operating system. This is what causes us to face the climate, conflict and the Covid crisis. Unless we reduce the growing inequality within and among our countries, we will be heading for a bleak future.
Change can be daunting, but it is far less terrible than alternatives. The fundamental changes in government policies, business practices, and our personal choices over the past 18 months have shown that actions that were previously unimaginable can be taken. If we are to overcome inequality and lay the foundation for a more inclusive and sustainable world, this commitment now needs to convey a broader spirit of renewal.