As the world is engulfed by the terrific effects of COVID-19, some disparities in today’s society have surfaced to full light. The absurdities of the world, and how world leaders place their priorities in the wrong things have emerged with full force. There is an overwhelming impetus to make the world a better place for all.
Many countries across the world have imposed lockdowns and several other travel restrictions, putting the business at an all-time low. Essential services, however, have been generally exempted from these restrictions. These services include occupations that have been legislated by the government to have special restrictions/exemptions in regard to certain labor actions. In lieu of the pandemic, this implies that occupations falling under essential services are allowed to keep on doing business. These are hospitals, and other healthcare service providers, agriculture and food, firefighting, law enforcement, electricity, water supply, and transportation.
For a long period, the remuneration in the occupations that fall under essential services. Grocery store workers, restaurant workers, trash and recycling collectors, domestic workers, delivery services have always been considered low-skilled jobs and do not generally attract high wages and salaries. Yet, these are the people who keep everyday life rolling smoothly. These are the people who have been essential in this time of the pandemic. The focus on their skills and unrivaled importance have now shown that the capitalist system rewards them unfairly.
In the United States, the food worker generally makes an average of less than $12 an hour (this is in a country where the average hourly wage is $28). It took COVID-19 to hit the whole world for everyone to see how these people are “essential.” The yawning gap should be reconciled.
After the pandemic wears out, and as economies begin to recover, it should be the top priority for governments across the world to ensure protective safety nets for the essential workers. It should be the top agenda to value them highly. The gratitude should be accompanied with real tangible benefits, and that means better pay. Better social security. The majority of workers in the essential service sector are employed on a temporary basis, with scant benefits. What the coronavirus has done here is to compel the world to acknowledge the inequalities it has been ignoring all this while.
There is a semblance of truth in how labor relations hinged on capitalist principles (since capitalism rules planet Earth) are unfair for the worker – but the truth is that the world cannot completely be oblivious to the needs of people who make everyday life smooth. It is imperative to implement amendments in labor relations that cater well for the welfare of essential workers. Insecure contracts should be substituted with permanent employment that comes with the rightful benefits, thus creating social security for these workers. There should be more training and accreditation for these workers. Essential workers should be valued, and they must not resign into the languish of low pays and zero benefits.
Countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ghana have begun relaxing their lockdowns in order to spare their economies and keep certain parts of those economies alive. But what these lockdowns have brought to the fore is how the poor are left bare. After the pandemic, African countries should seriously consider investing heavily in numerous social protection programs. Because the inevitable reality is that the economic dynamics result in society being stratified according to how much one earns. There are top earners and those who earn peanuts. But should the vulnerable be left without any form of help when governments collect taxes from those who earn? Another area where the inequality of the coronavirus comes is in e-learning. This method of continuing education in the midst of the pandemic is a remote possibility for the majority of African students because of the high prices of data. The highest rates of internet penetration are in urban areas, and those in urban areas cannot afford data the way they would love to. The plight of the rural students then remains unanswered. These are the focal points of inclusive development that African countries are supposed to prioritize when COVID-19 is over. Leaving out no one in the complex matrix of development.
Instead of governments across the whole world investing in infinite luxury lives for the politicians, protecting big corporations who leech off the worker, positive change must be instituted gradually but with a hasty mindset. Instead of flouting all rules about animal conservation, being insensitive to the core values of creating a better life for everyone, governments should be at the forefront of making sure that people are not pushed to the edge of abject poverty. COVID-19 has exposed the inequalities that the world has been turning a blind eye to for the longest time. The people in the Kibera slums, the people in the Rio de Janeiro favelas – areas where safe sanitation remains a pipe dream – need basic amenities in life that ensure a decent existence.
The focus should be on reforming these glaring inequalities. That is one positive thing that should come out of this crisis. To make the world a better place by reconciling some of the discrepancies that have been brought to the world as a result of modern progress.