William Eichler 30 September 2020

Tackling inequality key for post-COVID recovery, say experts

Safeguarding people's living standards, re-evaluating the role of key workers in society, and reducing inequality are ‘crucial’ for the UK’s economic recovery, researchers say.

A new series of thought pieces from researchers and scientists at The University of Manchester have outlined 13 themes across five overarching universal subject matters which the UK should focus on as part of the post-COVID-19 recovery effort.

As well as the above mentioned areas, they also urged policy makers to invest in local innovation, harness the green sector, and combate the climate emergency.

Commenting on the economic recovery, Professor Bart van Ark, managing director of the newly-founded Productivity Institute at Alliance Manchester Business School, said: ‘As we are mitigating the impact from a second wave of new cases on public health, it is also critical to safeguard people's living standards. First, we need to limit the number of job losses as a direct result of the crisis and then we need to find a path to economic recovery that creates new jobs and raises their incomes.’

That includes key workers and the roles they have in society, adds Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio from the Work and Equalities Institute.

‘There's been a lot of applause for NHS workers. There's been a lot of symbolic support. But amongst many work and employment academics, what we begin to realise, is that the real issue is that these workers have to be financially rewarded,’ he said.

James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester, says another pathway to economic recovery is the ‘devolution of innovation’.

‘The Manchester model of innovation – design, make and validate – is core to what we do here in Manchester. We often refer to it as “make-or-break”, accelerating from the initial discovery through to applications and bringing products rapidly to market,’ he explained.

‘As we move towards a post-COVID world, we're now seeing new factors are increasingly important for customers and industry. For example, the need for local supply chains for the manufacture of things like personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used locally.’

Professor David Hulme, executive director of the Global Development Institute, commented: ‘COVID-19 has brought many issues into a very sharp focus. It's a health crisis, and at the same, time it's an economic crisis. But it may also be an opportunity to start to rethink some of the ways in which the world is governed and think about the strategies that countries and organisations have been pursuing.’

On the question of combating climate change, Professor Alice Larkin from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the head of the School of Engineering, said: ‘There are two important lessons that we've learnt so far from the Covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, that our priorities can be different. And secondly, that change can happen quickly.

‘These observations can also be harnessed to tackle the climate emergency because with everything going on in the world right now, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that we're in one.’ Professor James Nazroo also called for an inquiry into ethnic inequalities in health in light of the fact that ethnic minority communities have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

‘The outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic points to the need to establish a wide independent inquiry into ethnic inequalities in health, and one that moves to focus on recommendations to address the fundamental causes of these long-standing and profound inequalities,’ he said.

Photo: amirraizat / Shutterstock.com

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