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Inequality as we know it

Updated: Oct 18, 2020


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If inequality was not toxic enough already, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated its effect on society. The recent times have unveiled the true extent of social disparity and ‘backwardness’ making the need for change during times of change more important than ever.

One can’t begin to stratify the fields where these inequalities may be observed according to their relevance, thus I shall name them in the order of social ‘significance’.

Healthcare. It’s one of the pillars that supports our literal being. From regular checkups to life expectancy, it’s not only an economic need for every single human, but also a tool to measure welfare. However, recently, care has become a comfort, in many cases, even a luxury. An African-American is 4 times more likely to contract the coronavirus than a white person in the same social bandwagon. Of course some may suggest that this may be due to biological differences however, they play a minor role compared to social differences. Racism has a direct impact on health and affects the infrastructure accessed by a minority, in many cases, even the majority. Tertiary care is still unheard of in most rural areas across the globe, adding to the vulnerability of a particular sector.

What we require is a sustained, legitimate healthcare policy and infrastructure whose foundation is essentially the same across the globe.

In the United States, healthcare is majorly privatised in the sense that it relies on a direct fee system and private insurance. The system is extremely expensive to say the least. $2.8 trillion are spent on healthcare annually (1/6th the GDP) and the per capita expenditure on health is above $8,500. David Blumenthal, the executive director of the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund said that if the US health care system could break off and become its own economy, it’d be the fifth- largest in the world. What’s ridiculous is that half the healthcare spending (around $623 billion) goes toward 5% of the population. The absolute disregard to 95% of the population which on an average spends $236 annually on healthcare, is what indicates the inhuman nature of the US Health system. A migrant, minor, minority or an African-American received practically no health obligations.

It’s not just the obnoxious funding but also the poor infrastructure for health across the globe. During the Ebola Virus pandemic, it was reported that the density of healthcare workers to people in Africa was 2:100,000, a value very different from the WHO’s suggested 23:100,000. Usage of unsterilised Caesarean birth kits and other instruments put people at extreme risk. COVID-19 has put into question the sheer credibility of our healthcare system which must be protected.

Shelter and Housing. During the initial stages of the pandemic, construction works and real estate took a massive toll. Due to a change in demand mechanisms and evolution of consumer interest, most people were unable to pay rent due to a sudden cut in their income. A poorly planned system on the part of the governing body (which was then, more interested in tackling the immediate repercussions of the coronavirus) also made people vulnerable to this time. For example, rental market restrictions help tenants in the short term but typically also weaken supply responses, as they make housing investment less responsive to changes in demand and can pose obstacles to residential mobility. The covid-19 has already established an inequality in race, caste, income and wealth which directly influence housing and housing disparity. Food access. Research has found that people who have a socioeconomic disadvantage tend to face difficulty with food access and healthy diets. Sudden lockdowns across the globe threatened food supply immensely and not only created shortages in the market, but also affected the long term health of disadvantaged persons.

Education. It’s what sustains a person, shapes their capabilities and mould their actions. Today, in the age of COVID-19, where learning has been forced to shift to an online format, people in the low income belt and those living in rural, underdeveloped areas have been gravely neglected. Most people don’t have access to a device like a phone or laptop for classes and even if they do, network connections may be expensive or poor. Most of the curriculum is difficult to teach online and innovation to assist this digital shift is in the making.

Career and business prospects. What we overlook is that education shapes an individual and their income earning capability and thus, GenZ is likely to face severe problems with employment in the near future as employers start to demand employees with good skill sets. Also, the pandemic is not only a setback but also gives us future entrepreneurs to bridge the divide and fill the institutional voids in our society.

These are just a few of the hundred of spheres where inequality is prevalent globally. They’re just the essential service that I felt all humans are entitled to. Realistically, inequality is inevitable in more ways than not but it can be mitigated by taking measures on legislative and grassroots levels.

Written by Urvi Agarwal

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