Inequality: The health-wealth fault line
COVID19 shone a spotlight on income inequality and how it undermines resilience. While businesses showed a high degree of agility by transferring many low touch, higher skilled roles from office building to employees’ homes, this is not an option for many high touch, low skilled jobs in services, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality and other vulnerable industries.
Such jobs are more likely to be less well-paid, less secure, part-time, and held by women, people from minority groups and migrants. According to Horizon-Group and the insights on the COVID Economic Recovery Index, among the G20 countries, several score poorly for their dependence on vulnerable industries and levels of inequality. Among the worst performing G20 nations on all three measures are Argentina, Brazil, and the US.
Less skilled, lower income groups are more exposed to industry and employment impact created by containment measures and the global demand shock. With fewer or no transferable skills, they will be more likely to become unemployed or underemployed as the industries they work in recover more slowly or weakly. They were already less likely to have access to health services and more likely to suffer from the types of chronic disease that makes people more vulnerable to COVID19.
A disproportionate percentage of COVID19 deaths of those under 65 were among lower-income and minority groups (Center for Disease Control, 2020). Among the top-ranking countries in the CERI, those with the lowest levels of inequality also score highly for skills and education.
While inequality is a function of many factors, given how changes to jobs and the nature of work are likely to accelerate because of this crisis, and the link between education, income and health, it would appear that investment in education and skills for all will be a key policy area for an inclusive recovery.
The stimulus packages disbursed in the course of 2020 offer opportunities for supporting upskilling and reskilling of people into jobs that are expected to be more in demand in future as the economy transforms.