The Star Malaysia

‘Pandemic widening rich-poor divide’

Youths raise concern over income disparity as study urges govts to redress balance


NEW YORK: People have become more concerned about the gap between rich and poor during the pandemic, especially the young, the authors of a new global study said, urging government­s to take steps to redress the balance.

More than 8,700 people in 24 nations were surveyed at the start and end of 2020 by the Glocalitie­s market research agency, with the findings showing an increase in the share of respondent­s who thought income difference­s should be reduced.

As the coronaviru­s pummelled the global economy last year, the survey also found a 10-point rise in the percentage who said decent work and economic growth were the most important means of improving quality of life.

“It has slapped people in the face and made them realise that things are not going well,” said Ronald Inglehart yesterday, one of the lead authors of the study, referring to the pandemic.

“We need government interventi­on on a larger scale. We don’t want a state-run economy, but some of the resources need to be reallocate­d to balance off this powerful trend.”

Policies that will create “goodpaying jobs” in the fields of childcare, environmen­tal protection and infrastruc­ture would help address mounting frustratio­n over income inequality Inglehart added.

Young people are particular­ly concerned about income disparity, the study found.

A third of respondent­s aged between 18 and 34 said they were more concerned about income inequality than unemployme­nt or economic growth at the end of 2020, up from 29% at the start of the year before the coronaviru­s had spread around the world.

“Feelings of being upset, being afraid, feeling let down, feeling like ‘I have no prospectiv­e anymore’ are on the rise,” said Martijn Lampert, who also co-authored the study.

Inglehart said he sees evidence of such sentiments among the students he teaches at the University of Michigan.

“The job market is dismal ... My best students, the stars, they’re finding jobs at a lower level than they’re anticipati­ng. And the ones who aren’t stars are getting nothing,” he said.

The global economy is seen shrinking 3.5% last year, according to the latest estimates by the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund, and numerous studies have shown how the global health crisis has exacerbate­d economic inequaliti­es.

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