Bottom Heavy Impact on the Most Vulnerable
Not everyone has the luxury of a safe home to isolate in during lockdowns (particularly refugees, victims of domestic violence and those discriminated against for their beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.), let alone any kind of home at all. It is estimated by the UN that no less than 150 million people or around 2% of the total global population can be classified as homeless with a further 1.6 billion living in inadequate shelter, more than 20% of the world. Statistically, they experience higher incidences of influenza, TB, respiratory problems, and chronic illnesses. Such comorbidities means that they are more susceptible to Covid-19 and their living conditions make the concept of keeping a certain number of feet apart and social distancing or self-isolating almost impossible. Unemployment levels have risen rapidly across the world and are predicted to increase further but the majority of lost jobs tend to be the worst paying ones and were more likely to have been performed by young people, women, ethnic minorities, and immigrants. Many of those who have lost their jobs are not fortunate enough to have the skills or technology to work remotely or to retrain. Indeed, even if they had the means and desire to, many of their tasks cannot typically be done from home. A recent Oxford University study has found that in the US, for example, someone earning an annual salary of less than $20,000 is two times as likely to have lost their job as someone earning over $80,000. Those who are self-employed or on un-salaried, variable contracts are particularly vulnerable, as are people without paid sick leave beyond the statutory minimums (they are more likely to work in roles that involve close proximity to others and to go to work even if feeling unwell). Whilst some may enjoy the luxury of remote working and not be significantly impacted, upward mobility might be hindered for those who do not, such as young people or recent immigrants, who lack strong existing professional networks. They would struggle to develop them remotely and even if they do physically make it to the workplace, they may miss out on training opportunities or mentorship/guidance from more senior and experienced staff. The statistics showed that young generations were already at a significant disadvantage economically compared to older ones prior to the pandemic, and if left unchecked this crisis will continue to increase inequalities between rich and poor, young and old, men and women, those on secure contracts and those on insecure ones. There is a major risk of permanently scarring the longterm employment progression prospects of younger generations and the most economically disadvantaged. In our increasingly globalised and interconnected world, there is significant economic and social interdependence between the most affluent and the least in our societies and the damage caused to the most vulnerable will ultimately impact the livelihoods and wellbeing of everyone in the system.