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Coronavirus Has “Ruthlessly Exposed And Exacerbated” Existing Inequalities In The UK, Researchers Warn

The report found that the pandemic had exacerbated many existing inequalities in the UK (PA/IFS)

3 min read

Vaccines alone won’t be enough to “repair the damage” done to inequalities in UK society brought about by the coronavirus pandemic according to a new report.

Analysis from Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), undertaken as part of the Deaton Review of Inequalities, found that the most vulnerable have been among the worst affected by the global crisis.

The report revealed a disproportionate loss of earnings along demographic lines, while children from private schools were less likely to have had their education disrupted by lockdown.

Health inequalities have also widened, the report found, with the most deprived local areas seeing the greatest increase in mortality due to Covid-19, caused by “overlapping disparities in different domains of life”.

And, pensioners were found to have become far better off financially than young people across the year, while mortality rates were twice as high among black ethnic groups compared to their white counterparts.

Non-graduates were far more likely than graduates to be in sectors shut by lockdown or in roles unable to work from home, with 71% falling into this category compared to just 45% of those with university degrees.

Graduates were also far more likely to remain working, with just 7% doing zero hours of paid work in the third quarter of 2020 versus 17% of non-graduates.

Share of workers not in shut-down sectors and who can work from home, by highest qualification (Source: IFS Deaton Review)

The report found that gradutes were more likely to be in work not affected by lockdowns, or that could be done from home compared with non-gradutes.

Commenting on the findings, the review’s chair, Nobel Laureate Sir Angus Deaton, said: “As the vaccines should, at some point this year, take us into a world largely free of the pandemic, it is imperative to think about policies that will be needed to repair the damage and that focus on those who have suffered the most. 

“We need to build a country in which everyone feels that they belong.”

Time spent on educational activities during a typical weekday (Source: IFS Deaton Review)

Primary school children in the lowest economic groups saw a far more significant drop in education hours than their wealthier counterparts.

Among school-aged children, the report found that those at private schools were twice as likely as state-school pupils to get daily online lessons during lockdown.

At the start of the May lockdown, the number of hours spent on education activities fell by a quarter among the poorest pupils from six hours to 4.5 hours, while the richest saw a much smaller decline.

Deaths by local area deprivation, March–July 2020 (Source: IFS Deaton Review)

The most deprived local areas were among those that saw the greatest number of Covid-19 related deaths.

The IFS is now calling on the government to consider “a broad set of policies” to tackle these pre-existing inequalities that were “exacerbated” during 2020.

“Individuals are subject to a wide range of potential vulnerabilities around dimensions including age, ethnicity, place of birth, education, income and the nature of their employment,” said Mark Franks, Director of Welfare at Nuffield Foundation, which funded the research. 

“Where these vulnerabilities intersect, they can amplify and reinforce one another and play a huge role in driving unequal outcomes.”

"As we enter a vital year, the IFS-Deaton Review of Inequalities is playing an important role in demonstrating how the pandemic has ruthlessly exposed such existing inequalities and also exacerbated them.”

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