by Seth BUTERA July 18, 2021
The short-term economic and well-being costs of COVID-19 have been severe. Though we hope the pandemic will be a temporary shock, in the interim it has pushed many vulnerable households living at the margins back into poverty.
Due to lockdowns and social distancing measures, people have lost jobs and livelihoods, leaving them unable to pay for housing and food. Schools have been closed and some children may not return, shutting off one of the main pathways out of poverty for low-income children.
Women and girls have been especially impacted by these school closures. Mothers at all socio-economic levels have dropped out of the labor force to supervise online learning and care for children and older relatives, and many will not reenter.
Even before the pandemic, women, and girls of reproductive age were overrepresented among the poor, making these setbacks all the more concerning.
We likely will not know the full impacts of COVID-19 on poverty for a few years, as most poverty data come from household surveys, which have been difficult to carry out during the last year hence we are yet to be in a position to even estimate the level of poverty.
However, we do know that economic growth is the largest driver of poverty reduction. Conversely, economic recessions drive a rise in poverty, other things being equal.
In 2020, however, other things were not equal: national and local governments were able to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on their poorest people to varying degrees, and assessing the economy-wide impact of these measures cannot yet be done systematically.
What can be done at this juncture is to use new estimates for economic growth through 2030 or beyond to capture the potential impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the long run.
The crisis has triggered a global recession, the deepest since the end of World War II with the downturn most pronounced in the poorest parts of the world.
And specifically in travel and tourism, COVID-19 and related restrictions led to losses of nearly $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs.
Certainly, the pandemic has affected many of us deeply and personally – whether because of the virus itself, its impact on friends and family, changes to our personal and professional routines, and the profound emotional and psychological toll of more than a year and a half of stress, uncertainty, loneliness, and reflection.
But there are signs that as the world emerges from the darkness of this crisis, there is an opportunity for us to rise up with more resilience – and more humanity.
While yes, there have been differences and disputes regarding how to respond to the pandemic, in ways never before seen, the world has been united in the last 18 months as it fights this invisible enemy.
In many ways it has exposed the truth behind the words of poet Maya Angelou, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”