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Building a Compassionate and Coordinated Economic Response to COVID-19

Ian Goldin, Oxford University Professor of Globalisation and Development
April 15, 2020

Ian Goldin is the Oxford University Professor of Globalisation and Development, Senior Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change, and a Professorial Fellow at the University’s Balliol College. He has written extensively on the future of work and globalization, exploring the implications of the changing technological landscape for societies and economies. 

Even as our communities contend with the immediate impacts of COVID-19, it is becoming clear that this pandemic will have far-reaching long-term consequences as well. In an opinion piece titled “Just How Bad Could a Coronavirus Recession Get?” in The New York Times, Ian highlights the critical importance of government intervention that “focuses on the domestic challenges and seeks to build international cooperation.” 

The pandemic has had a direct impact on the economy: the closure of factories and worker quarantines are disrupting the provision of supplies, and restrictions on key industries, such as travel and hospitality, are hindering demand. This could lead to a pandemic-induced economic recession, which threatens to impose further economic challenges on vulnerable groups that are already suffering from the immediate consequences of this virus, including older people, people with disabilities, and those living in poverty with little access to adequate healthcare.

The current handling of job losses and temporary layoffs have major implications for the future of work. Given that 57 million people in the United States work in the gig economy and as hourly contractors, Ian calls for the federal government to assist employers in guaranteeing a basic income to protect workers who are not currently entitled to sick pay. Countries are taking this seriously; Spain is considering implementing a permanent basic income for a certain segment of its population. 

In addition to supporting vulnerable individuals domestically, this is also a critical moment for international solidarity among governments across the globe. As vulnerable governments threaten to buckle under the pressures of the pandemic, financial support must be made available in order to prevent the global health crisis from also becoming a financial crisis. There is no question that our societies and economies will be transformed by the effects of this pandemic; as we navigate the challenges of responding to these unprecedented circumstances, Ian urges all governments to act in a spirit of global cooperation to ensure a coordinated economic response.