Giving Everyone a Fair Shot

The COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vicious circle of inequality. To break this pattern and give everyone a fair shot at prosperity, governments need to improve access to basic public services—such as health care (including vaccination) and education—and strengthen redistributive policies.

For most countries, this would require raising additional revenue and improving the efficiency of spending. These reforms must be complemented by greater transparency and accountability, which can help increase overall trust in government and contribute to more cohesive societies.

COVID-19 and inequality

Inequality was a pre-existing condition that worsened COVID-19’s impact. Disparities in access to basic services have contributed to uneven health outcomes. According to our research, countries with worse access to health care, proxied by the number of hospital beds, have had higher COVID-19 mortality rates than predicted by the number of cases and age structure. Similarly, our analysis shows that countries with higher relative poverty had higher rates of both cases and deaths.

And COVID-19 is also widening inequality. One example is children’s education. Our analysis shows that, with widespread school closures, education losses in 2020 are estimated at a quarter of the school year in advanced economies and twice as much in emerging market and developing economies. Children from poorer families have been disproportionately affected. We estimate that up to 6 million children in emerging market and developing economies could drop out of school in 2021, with lifelong adverse consequences.

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