People worry more and more about inequalities but are divided on how to fix it
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only had devastating effects on physical health and mortality, but has affected all aspects of people’s well-being, with far-reaching consequences for people, according to a new OECD study. our way of living and working.
COVID-19 and well-being: life in times of pandemic says the virus caused a 16% increase in the average number of deaths in 33 OECD countries between March 2020 and early May 2021, compared to the same period in the previous four years. Over the same time period, survey data for the report reveals increasing levels of depression or anxiety and a growing sense of loneliness and disconnected from society in many people.
Government support helped maintain average household income levels in 2020 and stemmed the tide of job losses, even as the average number of hours worked fell sharply. Although job retention programs offer workers some protection, 14% of workers in 19 European OECD countries felt that they were “likely to lose their jobs” within three months, and almost one in three people in 25 OECD countries reported financial difficulties.
The report says experiences with the pandemic have varied widely based on age, gender and ethnicity, as well as the type of work people do and their level of pay and skills. The crisis has also exacerbated existing social, economic and environmental challenges.
In countries for which data is available, workers from ethnic minorities are more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic. Mental health deteriorated for almost all population groups on average in 2020, but mental health gaps by race and ethnicity are also visible. Death rates from COVID-19 for some ethnic minority communities have been more than double those of other groups.
Young adults experienced some of the biggest declines in mental health, social connections and life satisfaction in 2020 and 2021, and faced job disruptions and insecurity.
Launched on the occasion of the first anniversary of the new OECD Center for Well-Being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunities (WISE), the report offers an introduction to the OECD recommendations on well-being. It assesses the impact of the pandemic through the 11 dimensions identified in the framework of the well-being of the OECD – income and wealth; work and job quality; lodging; health; knowledge and skills; environment; subjective well-being; security; work-life balance; social connections; and civic engagement. It presents data on inclusion and equality of opportunity, and also examines the evolution of stocks of economic, human, social and environmental resources that support well-being.
The report argues that as governments move from emergency aid to stimulating recovery, they must refocus their action on what matters most to the well-being of the people.
A key objective must be to increase the job and financial security of households, and in particular those most affected by the crisis – with a focus on the most vulnerable, young people, women and the low-skilled. Tackling the burden of poor physical and mental health and adopting an intergovernmental approach to improve the well-being of the most disadvantaged children and young people must also be a priority. The report also stresses that actions aimed at raising the standard of living and equal opportunities must take place in a context of greening the economy: climate and biodiversity crises, such as the pandemic, require a coordinated response of all public policies.
A wellness-oriented approach, the report explains, views government goals as interconnected goals, focusing on how different policies can complement each other. Such an approach encourages decision making that simultaneously considers impacts on current well-being, inclusion and sustainability of well-being over time. For example, improving long-term economic opportunities by improving the well-being of children or by aligning climate change efforts with social and economic goals by increasing employment and mobility of people and places left behind. account.
Natural, human and social capital will need to be rebuilt after the crisis, adds the report. Reducing inequalities in access to and use of lifelong learning, for example, will help people, especially disadvantaged people, to secure high-quality jobs by developing training programs that fill skills gaps and focus on digital capabilities.
Social capital – the norms, shared values, and institutions that foster cooperation – has shaped communities’ responses to the pandemic. Data from all OECD countries show that trust in institutions and interpersonal trust have influenced the effectiveness of pandemic containment. Although recently showing signs of weakening, institutional confidence in 2020 in most OECD countries was at its highest level since the record began in 2006.
The report says that building trust is essential to reconnect people to their societies and to the institutions that are supposed to support them. By doing so, the well-being of citizens is improved both today and in the post-pandemic future.