Global Connectedness, Social Inequality & Pandemic

Dear Readers,

We are in the middle of June 2020, more than 13 weeks have passed since self quarantine started in large parts of the world to restrict the pace of Pandemic. During this period more than 7.7 Million people got hospitalized, excess of 430,000 people died and millions got unemployed. The Pandemic hit all class of people without discriminating based on wealth, gender, age, sex and race but the outcome was not the same. A few could withstand it better than others, both in terms of health and income. The majority got worse off economically than they were before the Pandemic.

In today’s blog I am focussing on two underlying plausible causes which are behind the rapid transmission and deadliness of the virus.

Global Connectedness:

In today’s world as Globalization becomes the accepted buzzword for Governments, Corporations and Policy Makers, borders seem to have become blurred and traffic movements have increased phenomenally over the last few decades.  The below picture shows the global international air connectivity on 29th February 2020 before the outbreak of the Pandemic in Europe:

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 7.13.43 PM

Source :  Flightradar24

The number of passengers traveling globally annually has seen a jump of more than 100% over the last 15 years and expected to rise to further post Pandemic period.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 7.50.49 AM

Source: Statista

It has been estimated that 20 days before the lockdown, more than 60,000 people flew from Wuhan to Beijing, and more than 50,000 people flew from Wuhan to Shanghai (Hongqiao Airport and Pudong Airport), Guangzhou and Chengdu respectively.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 8.08.02 AM

Source : Flight Master

People also travelled to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan during the period with Hong Kong ranking first among outbound flights destination from Wuhan, but the passengers flow was no more than 10,000 respectively.

The primary destination for international flights from Wuhan was Bangkok, Thailand with a maximum of 10,000 passengers from December 30 to January 22. Singapore was second in the number of outbound flights and Japan’s Tokyo was third.

Undoubtedly global connectivity did play a crucial role in transmitting the virus from China to South East Asia and other regions.

Social Inequality:

We live in a society where there are classes with respect to race, religion, caste, sex etc. The outcome of this compartmentalization is that not everyone has the same access to opportunity to achieve their full potential. The end result is some become advanced while others are left behind in the race. The direct result of Social Inequality could be the following:

  1. Low Spending on Healthcare : It’s a known fact that poor people have less disposable income to spend on healthcare. This makes their underlying health weaker compared to people in the middle or higher class, thus making them prone to infection. The Governments around the world try to provide basic universal healthcare to the poor but still fall awfully short of expectations. The situation in worse in some of the big emerging countries such as Brazil and India. India managed to spend only 1.28% of its GDP on its healthcare in 2019-20 way less than other OECD countries. Brazil on the other hand could spend only 3.9% of its GDP on healthcare in 2017-18 period. These two countries now have a total record number of cases exceeding 750,000.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 8.27.37 AM

Source: National Health Profile 2019, Government of India and OECD

Similarly in the U.S. it has been reported that the African American community suffered more in the Pandemic compared to other wealthy communities. Although comprising less in the share of the population, they ended up receiving the brunt of the death cases.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 8.49.57 AM

Source : Forbes and Statista

This is in line with the distribution of income among the different communities. African American and Hispanics do much worse than other communities.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 8.58.53 AM

2.  Migration to Cities : In 2007, for the first time more than 50% of the population lived in big cities. People migrate to such cities in spite of the bad living conditions, low pay, contaminated water and lack of sanitary facilities. They have no other option as there is little or no work in the country side and as social security often does not exist, they have no choice but to leave and move to the cities.

In India the total number of internal migrants in India, as per the 2011 census, is 45.36 crore (453.6 Million) or 37% of the country’s population. This figure is expected to have crossed 50 crore (500 Million) in later years. This includes both inter state and intra state migration.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 10.27.14 AM

Source: World Bank (Data: Census 2011)

Despite the significant jump in internal migration recorded in 2011, the nature of movement remains relatively unchanged since 2001. Bulk of the movement (62%) is within the same district. Another 26% is between districts within the same state. Only 12% of movement is inter-state.

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 10.29.47 AM

Source: World Bank (Data: Census 2011)

The below map shows the areas in terms of percentage of households from which a migrant has gone in search of work. The largest proportion of migrant workers are from the relatively backward states from the Eastern part of India to the relatively prosperous Northern, Western and Southern India. Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha comprise the bulk of the migrant workers. Rajasthan in the western part of India has a high proportion of population working as migrant in other states especially in the neighboring state of Gujarat.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 9.26.23 AM

Source: National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) India.

While there is no official data for the inter-state migrants in the country, estimates for 2020 done by Professor Amitabh Kundu of Research and information System for Developing countries based on the 2011 Census , NSSO surveys and economic survey, show that there are a total of about 65 million inter-state migrants, and 33 per cent (21.5 Million or 2.15 Crore approximately) of these migrants are workers. By conservative estimates, 30 per cent of them are casual workers (6.3 Million or 63 Lakhs) and another 30 per cent (6.3 Million or 63 Lakhs) work on regular basis but in the informal sector. If street vendors, another vulnerable community which is not captured by the worker data, that would mean that there are 12 to 18 million (1.2 -1.8 Crore) people who are residing in states other than that of their origin and have been placed at a risk of losing their income. This is the number of people which would be logically wanting to move back to their states due to the Pandemic lockdown.

As these people moved to their home states there was a spike in the number of positive cases in the respective states.

Conclusion:

  1. Pandemic was unwittingly aided by Global Connectivity and Social Inequality.
  2. Global Connectivity helped it spread from China to far flung countries such as in Europe and Latin America.
  3. Social Inequality made a large section of the population residing in cities of affected countries vulnerable to the virus.

 

Stay Healthy and Safe !


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