Inequality Virus Report by Oxfam International:
The Inequality Virus Report, released by Oxfam International, has found that the Covid pandemic deeply increased the existing inequalities in India and around the world.
- The report states that Covid has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once – the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.
Impact of the Pandemic on Rich vis-a-vis Poor:
- India introduced one of the earliest and most stringent lockdowns in the face of the pandemic and its enforcement brought the economy to a standstill, triggering unemployment, hunger, distress migration, and untold hardship in its wake.
- The rich were able to escape the pandemic’s worst impact; and while the white-collar workers isolated themselves and worked from home, a majority of the not-so-fortunate Indians lost their livelihood.
- The wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35% during the lockdown and by 90% since 2009 to USD 422.9 billion, ranking India sixth in the world after the USA, China, Germany, Russia and France.
Impact on Informal Sector:
- India’s large informal workforce was the worst hit as it made up 75% of the 122 million jobs lost.
- Informal workers had relatively fewer opportunities to work from home and suffered more job loss compared to the formal sector.
- The 40-50 million seasonal migrant workers, typically engaged working in construction sites, factories etc. were particularly distressed.
Impact on Education:
- Over the past year as education shifted online, India saw the digital divide worsening inequalities.
- On the one hand, private providers experienced exponential growth yet, on the other, just 3% of the poorest 20% of Indian households had access to a computer and just 9% had access to the internet.
- It noted that the long disruption of schooling risked doubling the rate of out of school, especially among the poor.
- Oxfam found that since India does not report case data desegregated by socio-economic or social categories, it is difficult to gauge the distribution of the disease amongst various communities.
- India currently has the world’s second-largest cumulative number of Covid-19 positive cases and globally, the poor, marginalized and vulnerable communities have higher rates of Covid-19 prevalence.
- The spread of disease was swift among poor communities, often living in cramped areas with poor sanitation and using shared common facilities such as toilets and water points.
- Only 6% of the poorest 20% households had access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93% of the top 20% households in India.
- In terms of caste, just 37.2% of Scheduled Castes (SCs) households and 25.9% of Scheduled Tribes (STs) households had access to non-shared sanitation facilities, compared to 65.7% for the general population.
- The unemployment rate among women rose from an already high 15% before Covid to 18%.
- This increase in unemployment of women can result in a loss to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about 8% or USD 218 billion.
- Of the women who retained their jobs, as many 83% were subjected to a cut in income according to a survey by the Institute of Social Studies Trust.
- Beyond income and job losses, poorer women also suffered healthwise because of the disruption in regular health services and Anganwadi centers.
- It is predicted that the closure of family planning services will result in 2.95 million unintended pregnancies, 1.80 million abortions (including 1.04 million unsafe abortions), and 2,165 maternal deaths.
- The pandemic also fueled domestic violence against women. As of November 2020, cases of domestic violence rose by almost 60% over the past 12 months.