The New Poor due to the pandemic

INVESTING ON THE GO - Iggy Go (The Freeman) - September 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Conversations about the global health crisis or pandemic tend to focus either on public health or the economy, as if they were two separate matters. The worldwide economic devastation from poor or slow response and lockdown policies are sending millions into poverty.

This increases their exposure to potential infection as well as to the deadly threat that comes simply from being poor. Less money generally means potentially shorter, sicker lives.

Let us not forget that a central determinant of health is some degree of wealth - money. The ability to afford basic resources such as nutritious food, access to health care services, safe and secure housing, quality education and peace of mind.

And as harsh as it sounds, history has shown us that we’re never ‘all in the same boat’ during a crisis (health or otherwise). And for some of us, we have experienced this to be true during this global health crisis.

Those who are already financially vulnerable are among the most at risk. These are people who don’t have access to expedited treatment should they become sick, those who cannot telecommute and those who work in low-wage jobs.

The disease has also shown us how socioeconomic marginalization creates conditions that make it easier for a virus to spread.

The New Poor

The pandemic has posed a serious threat to the prospects of eradicating extreme poverty by the end of this decade and the reality might be grimmer and full of uncertainty especially for 2021 and beyond.

South Asia was on track with its progress but it is now projected to experience a resurgence in extreme poverty.

Using the world bank’s definition, you are classified under extreme poverty if you earn less than US$1.90 per day - the average poverty line in low-income developing countries. This number could be higher if we also use WB’s higher average poverty lines for lower middle-income (US$3.20) and upper-middle-income (US$5.50) developing countries.

For us in the Philippines, the most affected are those in the middle-income who got laid-off as well as the many working in the informal sector. We also can’t ignore the MSMEs and many industries who also got hit hard.

The Digital Path

The global pandemic crisis has devastated labor markets around the world with tens of millions losing their jobs and many jobs, occupations or careers are facing an uncertain future. Although teleworking will not be accessible for all, it can be a cheaper and realistic solution to aiding those affected by joblessness.

Yes, not all jobs can be done remotely but it cannot be denied that there is still a huge demand for digital workers. Learning new skills are crucial to the current situation in order to ensure survival from the economic devastation experienced around the world.

This crisis has already shown us that being able to get online is a crucial determinant to people’s ability to get alternative access to education, information on current events, and engaging in the workplace or business activities.

Investing in the digital infrastructure and closing the digital divide will allow disadvantageous groups to participate meaningfully in the future economy. And for the ordinary person, getting digital skills has become a matter of survival.

Let us all prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Stay Safe!

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” - Charles Darwin

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