Economist Professor Guido Alfani and Kate Bell of the Trades Union Congress discuss what history can suggest about the economic consequences of Covid. You can read Professor Alfani's recent History & Policy paper here.
The economic consequences of past pandemics, from the Black Death to the Spanish Flu: lessons for the age of Covid-19
The study of past pandemics offers many opportunities for reflecting upon the very nature of shocks of this kind. This is particularly the case for major events, like the Black Death or the Spanish Flu, because they led to very high mortality and consequently, they had a large and relatively easy-to-observe impact. These episodes hold lessons relevant for the current crisis because they suggest that certain presumed positive effects of large-scale pandemics, for example inequality reduction, hold only when looking at events characterized by horrifically high mortality rates. Luckily enough, Covid-19 will undoubtedly lead to mortality rates much lower than those typical of the worst historical pandemics – but this also means that this is a story without silver lining, and that Covid-19’s expected economic consequences are consistently negative, including concerning its impact on poverty and inequality.
Will we see a better recovery from Covid-19? What we've learnt so far: a view from the TUC
The Covid-19 pandemic reveals that a continued commitment to effective, pragmatic working between government, employers and unions is required so that we can collectively design solutions that can reduce its impact on protected groups. To this end the TUC is calling for government to introduce a National Council for Reconstruction and Recovery, bringing together unions and business in a formal advisory role. In order to prevent the discrimination that already exists in the workplace being amplified during job losses as a result of COVID-19, now and in the future, the evidence clearly points to measures to promote union recognition and membership, alongside legislative reform, as being necessary to address discrimination and disadvantage. In particular, the TUC is calling for rights for workers in insecure employment, the creation of more equal workplaces and measures to get rid of discriminatory treatment, with particular consideration for those groups protected by the Equality Act.
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