WEF report warns of Covid inequalities fueling social tensions across the globe
New research from the organizers of the annual Davos gatherings in the Swiss Alps warns of inequalities stemming from the coronavirus pandemic that could flare domestic and cross-border tensions around the world.
This year’s Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum describes a “global divergence” — where poorer nations have much lower Covid-19 vaccination rates and , therefore, face more prolonged economic troubles.
“Covid-19 and its economic and societal consequences continue to pose a critical threat to the world. Vaccine inequality and a resultant uneven economic recovery risk compounding social fractures and geopolitical tensions,” WEF said in the report published Tuesday.
“The resulting global divergence will create tensions — within and across borders — that risk worsening the pandemic’s cascading impacts and complicating the coordination needed to tackle common challenges.”
Aside from the catastrophic death toll, one of the most immediate impacts of the coronavirus pandemic has been the ensuing rise in inequality, many economists have said. They’ve noted that many people have faced job insecurity or haven’t had the means to attend online education due to lockdowns.
Richer countries have had earlier access to Covid-19 vaccines and many are already administering their third, or even forth, doses of the vaccine to their citizens. Meanwhile, poorer countries are struggling to see their populations receive even a first dose.
In Ethiopia, only 1.3% of people are fully vaccinated against Covid. In Nigeria, this number is 2.1%, according to Our World in Data. By comparison, in the U.S., 62% of Americans are fully vaccinated. In the United Arab Emirates and Portugal, this number is at around 90%.
“There is a major concern about livelihood crises — that’s actually number two on this list, so big concern around jobs and what’s happening in the labor market,” Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the World Economic Forum, said about the outcome of the Global Risks Report.
Speaking to CNBC’s Julianna Tatelbaum, she added: “There is that concern around mental health crises and that adds to the erosion of social cohesion, for example there are 53 million new cases of depression especially due to Covid.”
In the report, nearly 1,000 global experts and leaders from academia, business, civil society, government and other organizations, said that societal risks “have worsened the most since the pandemic began.”
These specific risks included social cohesion and mental health deterioration.
In addition, only 16% of respondents said they feel positive and optimistic about the outlook for the world. Furthermore, only 11% said they believed the global recovery will accelerate.
The International Monetary Fund estimated back in October a global growth rate of 5.9% for 2021 and 4.9% for 2022. These forecasts were done before concerns emerged over a new Covid-19 variant, known as omicron.
Since then, the IMF has admitted that these numbers might be revised down because of new restrictions. However, the institution has said that vaccination will remain critical to boost economic performance all over the world.
“We have been screaming from the top of a mountain that [the] pandemic is the greatest risk to the global economy. And we have been advocating very strongly to vaccinate the world. Progress is made, not enough,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told CNBC in December.