How to stop the pandemic from making Europe poorer?
The Covid crisis has increased poverty, unemployment and social inequality across Europe and in the rest of the world. Young people, the culture and hospitality sectors and tourism are the worst affected, as well as groups that were already structurally disadvantaged before the pandemic. Commentators paint a bleak picture and call for urgent and effective action.
Images like in 1929
The middle class is being robbed of its hard-earned advancement, observes writer Stefano Massini in La Repubblica:
“The middle class stands on the street, astonished and frightened, waiting in long, dignified queues for a hot meal. ... It is the Milan of today, but it looks like the Wall Street of 1929. ... This image represents the two million new poor that [the Italian statistics agency] Istat has recorded after a year of the pandemic. Here they are. Look at them, their posture, their clothes, their accessories. ... These people are not homeless or borderline destitute persons, but members of the middle class, individuals who, through the fruit of their labour, have risen from the urban underclass and proudly emancipated themselves. ... But then Covid came along and ruined everything.”
Southern Europe's millennials lose out again
Without targeted political intervention a whole generation stands to fall drastically behind, political scientist Ariane Aumaitre Balado warns in Telos:
“The job losses are concentrated on this double [financial and Covid] crisis generation, especially on those who have not gone to university. ... A [Spanish] study recently showed that the 24 to 39-year-olds are the ones whose incomes have fallen the most as a result of the pandemic. Without political measures tailored to this group (labour laws, housing policies, reconciling family and career, training programmes, better social protection in the event of professional reorientation), the wounds that these two crises inflict may not heal in their adult lives. As a result, many will be forced not only to postpone their goals in life, but to give them up altogether.”
Raise sickness benefits
The city of Tallinn has decided to give working people 30 euros in compensation for the first day they stay home due to the coronavirus. Eesti Päevaleht welcomes the decision but would like to see further measures:
“The goal must be that no one who suffers from Covid has to go to work simply because they have no other financial solution. There are three ways of achieving this goal: reimbursing the first day of sickness, increasing today's sickness benefits of 70 percent [of earned income], or both. ... Dear Government, please consider temporarily increasing sickness benefits to 100 percent, or at least to 80 or 90 percent! The matter is urgent. The rise in the number of corona cases last fall - the reason behind today's infections - is at least partially the result of the government not raising sickness benefits at the time.”