While inequality was an issue pre-COVID, it has been exacerbated by the impacts of the pandemic. For example, from March 2020 to the end of the year, Oxfam reported that billionaire wealth increased by $3.9 trillion. However, when it came to workers, wages fell a combined $3.7 trillion. Another factor that demonstrates this disparity is job retention. In the U.S., from February to the end of June 2020, the lowest-income group saw the greatest amount of job loss, while the highest-income group had the lowest rate.
Within unemployment rates, Black and Hispanic workers were more likely to lose their jobs compared to white workers. In fact, the unemployment rate of Black workers was 9.7 percent in comparison to 5.7 faced by white workers. Not to mention, many BIPOC workers do not have the opportunity to telework from home. Many are considered essential workers and are more likely to receive lower wages; thus, they are more at risk to contracting the virus, but rely heavily on every paycheck.
SDG 10 aims to reduce inequality within and among countries by 2030. One of the targets that measures the success of this goal is continuous income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.
While SDG 10 focuses on closing the economic disparity gap between the rich and the poor, the pandemic only widened this gap further. Not to mention, it significantly impacted lower wage workers around the world, some of which fit into the bottom 40 percent. Meanwhile, billionaires continued to benefit and expand their wealth. Even individuals in the upper to middle class, who are not even close to being billionaires, were able to stay afloat throughout this uncertain time, unlike low-income individuals. This is why when considering economic relief during the pandemic, many economists and politicians argued for setting an income cut-off. Those who are staying afloat will put the relief money into savings or invest it rather than spending it to stimulate the economy. People who have been struggling financially, however, have no choice but to spend every penny. While this stimulates the economy, it illustrates how much the pandemic has exacerbated income inequality, especially for BIPOC and how even relief packages should consider allocating funds more equitably rather than equally.
Within poverty, people do not have choice. At the end of the day, we all want the same things: to survive with enough money to pay bills and buy food without worrying or living paycheck to paycheck. No one saw COVID coming, but in the future, countries like the U.S. can be better prepared by having solid social safety nets in place. It is also worth considering increasing taxes on the rich in order to redistribute wealth. While a controversial topic, it’s one worth being explored if we want to lessen the economic inequality gap rather than let it swell.