COVID-19大流行病将加剧世界各地现有的不平等现象。Scheidel（2017）曾经认为，战争、变革性革命、王朝更迭和致命的瘟疫可以减少收入和贫富差距。他认为，病毒和细菌对工人的致命伤害更大。因此，对于那些幸存者，工资会增加，收入分配会变得更加平等。然而，事实却推翻了他的判断。在南美洲，由于COVID-19的影响，失业率预计将从8.1%上升到11.5%，导致贫困率急剧上升。在美国，老年人进入社会网络的途径被破坏了（Gauthier等人，2021）。在南非，危机加剧了性别不平等（Casale and Posel, 2021）。 因此，Scheidel修正了他的观点。"即将进入社会的新劳动力受到的影响最小，所以我们不要指望劳动力的短缺"（Hannon, 2020），"经济不平等将保持高位甚至增长"（Witte, 2020）。
COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate existing inequalities across the world. Scheidel (2017) once argued that wars, transformative revolution, dynasty change, and fatal plagues can reduce income and the gap between the rich and poor. He believed that viruses and bacteria mostly kill workers. Thus, for those survivors, wages would increase and income distribution would become more equal. However, facts have overturned his judgment: In South America, the unemployment rate is expected to increase from 8.1% to 11.5% due to COVID-19, resulting in a sharp increase in the poverty rate. In the United States, access to social networks for older adults is disrupted (Gauthier et al, 2021). In South Africa, the crisis has increased gender inequality (Casale and Posel, 2021). Therefore, Scheidel has revised his opinion: “The upcoming workforce is least affected, so we can’t expect a shortage of labor” (Hannon, 2020) and “Economic inequality will remain high or even grow” (Witte, 2020).
COVID-19大流行病和贫富差距是一个恶性循环。一方面，不平等将加剧COVID-19大流行病。社会经济地位低下的低收入群体需要外出打工谋生，所以他们接触的风险更高（Fisher & Bubola, 2020）。另一方面，在美国COVID-19大流行期间，在收入最高的25%人口中，90%的人可以休带薪病假，而这个数字在收入最低的25%人口中只占47%（Gould, 2020）。Bonds等人（2010）认为，整个社会可能陷入 "疾病驱动的贫困陷阱"，其中 "健康对贫困和贫困对健康的综合因果效应意味着一个正反馈系统"。在COVID-19大流行的影响下，世界银行警告说，该大流行病可能在2020年使4000万至6000万人陷入极端贫困，全球人均收入预计将下降4%（Mahler等人，2020）。目前的大流行病可能使全球经济损失10万亿美元（ILO，2020）。世界粮食计划署指出，到2020年底，将有2.65亿人被推到饥饿的边缘（Beasley，2020）。
The COVID-19 pandemic and the gap between the rich and poor is a vicious circle. On the one hand, inequality will exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income groups with low socioeconomic statuses need to go out to work for a living, so they have a higher risk of exposure (Fisher & Bubola, 2020). On the other hand, during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, of the 25% of the population who have the highest incomes, 90% can take paid sick leaves, while this number is only 47% for the people in the bottom 25% (Gould, 2020). Bonds et al. (2010) believe that the whole community can be caught in a “disease-driven poverty trap”, in which “the combined causal effects of health on poverty and poverty on health implies a positive feedback system”. Under the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank warned that the pandemic may plunge 40 to 60 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 and that the global per capita income is expected to fall by 4% (Mahler et al., 2020). The current pandemic may cost the global economy a loss of 10 trillion USD (ILO, 2020). The World Food Program states that 265 million people will be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 (Beasley, 2020).
From the perspective of public health, as of 2017, there are 3 billion people in the world who do not have basic hand-washing facilities (UNICEF & WHO, 2019). At the same time, considering that low-income groups live in areas with high population density and poor sanitary conditions, implementing the safety measures recommended by the government during COVID-19 is difficult as compared to other groups. Ahmed et al. (2020) pointed out that people with basic diseases have weaker resistance to COVID-19 and are more likely to experience serious symptoms due to health problems after infection. These basic diseases may include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc., and such health problems are often more common in vulnerable groups. Since poor people are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, they are exposed to a higher risk of death related to COVID-19.
从工作和收入的角度来看，落后地区的人们一般从事劳动密集型工作。在大流行中，这种类型的工作受到更大的影响，从而加剧了社会差距。例如，根据美国疾病控制和预防中心（CDC），美国的一些少数民族群体由于受教育程度低，在大流行期间面临相对较高的失业率（CDC, 2020）。Van Dorn等人（2020）的研究表明，在美国，大流行病对少数民族群体居住的社区造成了更大的影响，而这背后的原因是社会长期以来面临的结构性因素。根据美国劳工局2020年的数据，高中以下学历的失业率从2月的7.2%上升到5月的18.5%，而拥有学士学位的人的失业率从1.9%上升到7.2%（Kochhar, 2020）。失业率的差距越来越大，进一步加剧了各地区的不平等。Furceri等人（2020）还研究了本世纪发生的主要流行病降低了低收入群体的收入比例，从而加剧了不平等。
From the perspective of work and income, people in backward areas generally engage in physical-intensive work. In the pandemic, this type of work is affected to a greater extent, thereby exacerbating the social gap. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some ethnic minority groups in the United States face a relatively high unemployment rate during the pandemic due to their low level of education (CDC, 2020). Van Dorn et al.’s (2020) study shows that, in the US, the pandemic has caused higher impact on the communities where ethnic minority groups live, and the reasons behind this are structural factors that the society has faced for a long time. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor in 2020, the unemployment rate rose from 7.2% in February to 18.5% in May for people with less than a high-school education, while the rate rose from 1.9% to 7.2% for those with a bachelor’s degree (Kochhar, 2020). The increasing gap in the unemployment rate has further increased inequality in various regions. Furceri et al. (2020) also examined that the major epidemics that have occurred in this century reduced the income ratio of the low-income group, thereby exacerbating inequality.
There is a chain reaction between inequality and viruses: they deteriorate each other at the same time, but if we can alleviate one of the problems, the chain reaction will alleviate both. For governments of all countries, although the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the huge differences among different social strata that have existed for a long time, if policymakers can rethink the fairness of the existing system, they can change this situation through macroeconomics to reduce the social inequality caused and exacerbated by the pandemic.
在短期内，政府的政策应该是灵活的，重点是保护非正规经济。首先，在经济复苏的过程中，政府应该允许企业适当减少员工的工作时间，这样他们以及企业就可以获得部分失业福利。这可以帮助经济快速恢复，同时减少不平等现象的持续恶化（Boushey等，2019）。其次，政府还需要更加关注低收入社区。低收入社区在大流行期间的活动与富人的活动是不同的。提供有针对性的援助可以大大降低感染的几率（Coven & Gupta, 2020）。第三，发展中国家和低收入群体必须参与非正规经济，如促进易货贸易。Taskinsoy（2020）指出，人们在经济危机期间比在经济上升期更多地使用易货贸易的形式，贸易双方最后都不会遭受债务。Uyan（2017）认为，易货交易有各种好处，如转移库存、利用闲置产品产能、优化债务配置等，使其成为克服经济危机的有效途径。根据国际货币基金组织（IMF）的数据，委内瑞拉和阿根廷的通货膨胀率分别高达19910%和53.5%（IMF，2020）。考虑到缓慢的GDP增长和恶性通货膨胀，易货交易应该在拉丁美洲广泛使用。
In the short term, government policies should be flexible with a focus on protecting the informal economy. First, in the process of economic recovery, the governments should allow companies to appropriately reduce the working hours of employees so that they as well as the companies can receive partial unemployment benefits. It can help the economy recover quickly while reducing the continued deterioration of inequality (Boushey et al., 2019). Second, governments also need to focus more on low-income communities. The activities of low-income communities during the pandemic are different from those of the rich. Providing targeted assistance can greatly reduce the chances of infection (Coven & Gupta, 2020). Third, developing countries and low-income groups must participate in the informal economy such as promoting barter trade. Taskinsoy (2020) pointed out that people use the form of barter trade more often during economic crises than during upswings, both parties in the trade do not suffer debts in the end. Uyan (2017) argued that barter transactions have various benefits such as transferring inventory, utilising idle product capacity, and optimising debt allocation, making it an effective way to overcome economic crises. According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela and Argentina have inflation rates as high as 19910% and 53.5%, respectively (IMF, 2020).Taking into account the slow GDP growth and hyperinflation, bartering should be widely used in Latin America.
从中期来看，有必要在发展中国家扩大互联网。发展中国家的互联网普及率远远低于发达国家；北美和欧洲分别达到94.6%和87.2%，而亚洲和非洲分别只有53.6%和39.3%（IWS, 2020）。互联网普及率低也导致了信息封闭，阻碍了贸易发展。Bahrini（2019）指出，互联网和宽带的使用是发展中国家经济增长的主要推动力。Salahuddin等人（2015）在对南非的经济发展进行研究后指出，南非的互联网使用与经济增长之间存在着长期的正相关关系。然而，对于发达国家来说，最重要的一步是制定合理的经济政策，增加对危机后疲软经济的刺激作用。政府首先需要意识到，在大流行病或经济衰退期间减税无助于减少地区不平等。Dynan等人（2004）发现，即使在经济最好的时候，减税的相关政策也只对富人有利，并不能刺激市场。此外，削减所得税是最无效的刺激政策之一（Bartels, 2005; Clark & Leicester, 2004）。为了减少因大流行病而加剧的不平等，政府应该采用广泛的财政刺激措施，防止不平等差距的扩大。
In the medium term, it is necessary to expand Internet in developing countries. The Internet penetration rate of developing countries is much lower than that of developed countries; North America and Europe reached 94.6% and 87.2% rates, respectively, while Asia and Africa are only at 53.6% and 39.3%, respectively (IWS, 2020). The low Internet penetration rate also leads to information closure and hinders trade development. Bahrini (2019) pointed out that the adoption of the Internet and broadband was the main driving force for economic growth in developing countries. Following their research into the economic development of South Africa, Salahuddin et al. (2015) pointed out that there is a long-term positive correlation between South Africa’s Internet usage and economic growth. For developed countries, however, the most important step is to formulate reasonable economic policies to increase the stimulus effect on the weak economy after the crisis. The government first needs to realise that reducing taxes during the pandemic or economic recession will not help reduce regional inequality. Dynan et al. (2004) found that, even when the economy is at its best, tax-cutting-related policies are only beneficial to the rich and do not stimulate the market. In addition, cutting income taxes is one of the most ineffective stimulus policies (Bartels, 2005; Clark & Leicester, 2004). To reduce the inequality aggravated by the pandemic, the government should use extensive fiscal stimulus measures to prevent the widening of the inequality gap.
In the long term, developing countries must expand access to their financial services. According to statistics from the World Bank in 2017, 94% of adults in high-income countries have bank accounts; in contrast, this figure is only 63% in developing countries. From a global perspective, the number of unbanked adults from poor households is twice as those from the rich households (World Bank, 2017). Financial services play an important role in improving income inequality and enhancing the regional economy. With respect to the contribution of financial development to income growth, 40% is due to reduction in income inequality by financial services (Beck et al., 2007), which reflects the need to expand financial service coverage to the poor. Clarke et al. (2006) conducted empirical research on 83 countries and concluded that the development of the financial industry is not beneficial to the rich alone and can actually alleviate the gap between the rich and poor. Tchamyou (2019), after researching 48 African countries, stated that credit institutions can ease financial restrictions and ultimately reduce income inequality. Further, Sustainable Development Goals should be implemented as a key development strategy by the governments of all countries. Many facts have proved that inequalities in society have not been addressed after the 2008 economic crisis. SDGs can help policymakers solve this problem and make progress in reversing inequality (Chancel et al., 2018).
Nobel Ding is a senior at Stanford Online High School and Abbey College Cambridge.
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