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Covid-19 crisis will ‘exacerbate’ economic inequality in Irish society

A study by University College Cork identifies who is most exposed from social distancing and remote working disruption.

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The Covid-19 crisis will increase existing economic inequality in Irish society, a report has found (Niall Carson/PA)

The Covid-19 crisis will increase existing economic inequality in Irish society, a report has found (Niall Carson/PA)

The Covid-19 crisis will increase existing economic inequality in Irish society, a report has found (Niall Carson/PA)

The Covid-19 crisis will increase existing economic inequality in Irish society, a report has found.

Younger, male, less educated, non-nationals, the self-employed and those located outside Dublin are economically most exposed under Covid-19 restrictions, a University College Cork (UCC) report stated.

The report identifies who is most exposed from social distancing and remote working disruption in Ireland.

The analysis shows that social distancing measures and remote working potential favours older, female, better educated employees, Irish nationals and those located in the capital region.

The economic costs of these measures are large and a critical question for policymakers responding to the Covid-19 crisis is what types of people are most likely to bear the burden from the economic fallout?Dr Geraldine Ryan, Cork University Business School

The study, entitled The Impact of Covid-19 Restrictions On Workers: Who Is Most Exposed?, was carried out by Dr Frank Crowley, Dr Justin Doran and Dr Geraldine Ryan.

Dr Ryan, senior lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Finance at Cork University Business School and co-author of the report, said that most countries are prioritising health benefits over economic losses.

“The economic costs of these measures are large and a critical question for policymakers responding to the Covid-19 crisis is what types of people are most likely to bear the burden from the economic fallout?” she said.

“This report specifically deals with this question and our results indicate that the impacts are highly unequal across workers.”

The report found that women have, on average, a higher occupational social distancing and remote working potential, relative to men.

Each extra step up the educational ladder has the pay-off of being able to socially distance in work and engage in remote work, the report added.

It also found that as workers with higher levels of education have higher incomes, education disparities will be a key driver of inequality.

The social distancing measures and the opportunity for remote work will affect younger and older workers more than middle-aged individuals.

However, younger people are still clearly the disproportionately more impacted age group, the report stated.

The study shows that non-nationals are associated with a lower social distancing and remote working potential, relative to nationals.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will continue to be a vital safety net in the months ahead, the report also stated.

Job reintegration, digital and portable re-skilling, promoting entrepreneurship, and educational and job support initiatives to assist the workers most affected by the crisis “will be critical”.

The types of individuals most at risk in this crisis are also those that were most economically vulnerable pre-Covid-19Dr Frank Crowley, Cork University Business School

Dr Frank Crowley, economist and co-director of the Spatial and Regional Economics Research Centre (SRERC) at Cork University Business School, said: “The winners and losers of the health-wealth trade-off is an element of the crisis that arguably needs closer attention.

“The inevitable trade-off also places policymakers in an unfortunate conundrum.

“The spread of Covid-19 costs lives, but also the crashing of the economy will damage livelihoods and communities.

“The types of individuals most at risk in this crisis are also those that were most economically vulnerable pre-Covid-19.

“Critically, the Covid-19 crisis is likely to further exacerbate existing economic inequalities in Irish society.

“Considering the significant economic costs of the crisis and the types of groups affected, the prioritisation of health benefits over economic losses may need to be revisited as the crisis evolve.”

PA