Covid-19 risks not only increasing the spread of viruses, but also increasing inequality in the world. Photo: Judite B, Flickr

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Increasing inequality in the wake of the pandemic

In January, Oxfam released its report The Inequality Virus, which addresses the trend of increasing global inequality as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, a trend that is hitting those already most hard hit. Without well-targeted measures, the restoration risks taking up to a decade.

All indications are that inequality is increasing for virtually all countries at the same time, which would be the first time since measurements of inequality began. Reports emphasizes that those most affected by the pandemic are women, blacks, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups. For example, the number of people living in poverty has increased from 200 million to 500 million. At the same time, the increase in the wealth of the richest billionaires over the past year would be sufficient to secure vaccines for the entire world population. Children in low-income countries have lost four months of schooling, compared with six weeks for children in high-income countries. Women with informal jobs are the ones who have mainly been affected when job opportunities have disappeared, which in turn has driven an increased hunger globally. These consequences backfire on previous advances in global health and equality and point to the lack of safety nets for many people when a crisis strikes.

-  Covid-19 has been likened to an X-ray that reveals the fractures in the fragile social skeleton we have built up. It exposes mistakes and lies everywhere: the lie that the free market can provide healthcare for all; the fiction that unpaid work is not work; the illusion that we live in a post-racist world; the myth that we are all in the same boat. While we are all on the same sea, it is becoming increasingly clear that some of us are in super-yachts while others are trying to cling to drifting rubble, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is quoted as saying in the report.     

As an explanation for the inequality that existed before the pandemic, and now deepened, the world economic system is highlighted. According to Oxfam, these neoliberal systems have been permeated by patriarchal and racist structures, making marginalized people more vulnerable and preventing these groups from taking part in society's opportunities. But not everything is pitch black. The report also highlights the opportunity facing world leaders: to restructure today's economic system and build a world that is more inclusive, fair and sustainable. An opportunity that would speed up the restoration to three instead of ten years.

To achieve this, the report formulates five steps: 1) set clear goals to reduce inequality, 2) put in place universal welfare systems, 3) guarantee income security and sustainable business, 4) ensure a fair distribution of taxes and 5) achieve climate security. The report highlights that the pandemic taught us that it is possible to make rapid efforts in the world, which shows the possibility of changing the future for the better. Something that is summarized in the report's conclusion:

- We are at a crucial time in the history of mankind, an occasion that will be rewritten in the history books. We can not return to the brutal, unequal and unsustainable world in which the virus found us. Humanity has amazing talent, enormous wealth and unlimited ingenuity. We must put these assets to work to create a more equal and sustainable economy that benefits everyone, not just a few privileged ones.

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