- Coronavirus has brought to wider consciousness inequalities in areas from healthcare to technology.
- These inequalities are felt along various lines, from ethnicity to income.
- Minority groups and people with disabilities face multiple barriers in access to essential services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown socio-economic inequalities into sharp relief.
From access to healthcare and green spaces, to work and education, here are five areas of society where coronavirus has shown up real disparities.
1. Access to green spaces
Studies have shown the benefit of green spaces for our mental and physical health. And, with millions in various forms of lockdown, unequal access to these spaces has become a hot topic.
Recent research in South Africa has shown that ‘white’ neighbourhoods are 700m closer to public parks and have 12% more tree cover than areas with predominantly black residents.
Meanwhile, a 2017 study in Germany highlighted inequalities in access to urban green spaces in relation to income, age, education and numbers of children in households.
And a 2010 study showed that the most deprived census wards in the UK had, on average, just a fifth of the area of green space available to the most affluent wards.
You can read more about green spaces, their health benefits and the inequity that persists here.
2. Health access and outcomes
The pandemic has highlighted inequalities in access to healthcare and health outcomes for different groups.
Research in Europe has shown that, even in comparatively well-developed healthcare systems, inequality in access to health services persists. A 2018 report by the European Commission (PDF) says: “the lowest income quintiles are among the most disadvantaged groups in terms of effective access to healthcare”.
The report highlights issues along the lines of gender, race and residence status, with women and migrants both facing particular difficulties.
Significantly, the pandemic has highlighted the impact of socio-economic conditions on health. As the World Health Organization explains, “there is ample evidence that social factors including education, employment status, income level, gender and ethnicity have a marked influence on how healthy a person is”.
And initial research in the UK, for example, has shown that minority ethnic groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. A similar pattern has emerged in the United States, too.
These disparities within countries are all on top of the inequalities that exist between countries. For example, 95% of tuberculosis deaths occur in the developing world, and global life expectancy can vary by as much as 34 years.
Eighty-seven percent of premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) occur in low- and middle-income countries. And, in many of these countries, the cost of these diseases push people into poverty, hurting development and exacerbating health issues.
3. The digital divide
Millions of workers and school children have been sent home, forced to work remotely by lockdowns and social distancing rules. But, this has highlighted gaps in access to technology and the internet.
For example, some 50% of people (that’s more than 600 million individuals) in India don’t have access to the internet. And in many African countries the percentage is much higher. For these millions of people, remote working or education is little more than a fantasy. In India classes have been delivered by loud speaker in some rural areas.
Read the rest of the article here at World Economic Forum