Covid-19 controversy continues | By Rashid A Mughal


Covid-19 controversy continues

COVID-19, the greatest calamity which has destabilized the world since November 2019 and has caused immense human catastrophe in terms of over 3.5 million deaths, major economic crisis globally, massive un-employment and upset our social life, adding millions to those under psychological and mental disorder, continues it’s devastating trend in the entire world.

The controversy surrounding the surfacing of Virus which began with it in 2019 still continues .

The debate whether it is man-made or natural is still on.
A number of inquiries have been conducted and some are still underway to trace the origin of the Virus.

America has taken the lead in doing so and last week, President Biden ordered yet another probe in tracing its origin.

Trump openly blamed China for the spread of the Virus and mostly referred to it as “China Virus”. China has vehemently denied these allegations.

So the blame game continues and God knows we would ever know who the real culprit is but looks like we have to live with it for the rest of the life — or at least for some foreseeable future.

Covid-19 has affected every aspect of our life- be it Race, work, economy, social life, education and health.

A recently released report — “Race, Risk and Workforce Equity in the Coronavirus Economy” in US has made some startling revelations as far as the race relations, work force equity and economic challenges are concerned.

Yet here we are. By naming it, you can’t hide from it or cloak it in flowery language in an attempt not to offend the status quo. Keep it real.

Racism is ugly. Racism is violent. Racism is destructive. And racism has a vicious death grip on the soul of our nation.

Covid-19 is real and it has come to stay. It has changed the new normal on our mother earth and looks like it’s not leaving us any soon. In addition, toxic economic inequality under Covid-19 also continues to batter us, globally.

One of the most jarring data points in the report show that women and people of colour account for a disproportional share of coronavirus-related job loss, while simultaneously being overrepresented among essential workers like Breonna Taylor who risk their lives to sustain country’s functioning as we navigate the pandemic.

I think it’s easy for some people to keep these tragic acts of racialised violence and murder separate from our day to day work as practitioners aspire to create equitable workforce development outcomes.

But here’s the rub: it’s all the same energy. The same energy that fuelled a father and son as they chased down and assassinated Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging through his neighbourhood is the same energy used when employers choose not to protect essential workers or pay a living wage or place a premium on job quality.

It’s an energy characterized by a blatant disregard for life — most notably Black lives.

And it’s the same energy that overpowered George Floyd as he lay in the street with a knee to his neck begging and pleading for his life, all because he was suspected of passing off a fake $20 bill.

What does that say about American culture at a time when more than 42 million US workers have lost their jobs since mid-March?

Is this what we should expect as people grapple with making it in an economy where the human and financial toll continues to mount to untenable levels? How might we think differently about how we increase economic security so that the George Floyds of the world stand a fighting chance in a society that has not wholly embraced the value of Black lives? The leaked video of the killing of Ahmaud Arbrey, jogging in his neighbourhood and Breonna Taylor, gunned down by the police in her home after working an extended shift as an emergency room technician, jolted the entire world and sent shock-waves, everywhere.

These events aren’t new to any of us. However, these last few murders, coming in rapid succession, shifted something inside of every human being, awakening a deeply buried and protected rage and sadness that left one questioning if it is possible to change the status quo.

However, the conviction of police officer who killed Floyd has reposed the trust in American judicial system as it was a test case of their impartiality.

The verdict demonstrated that American institutions, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are still strong and following the basic principle of separation of powers, as enshrined in the constitution and principles of Democracy.

The coronavirus pandemic is teaching every nation a very painful lesson: An economy built on far too many low-wage, low-quality jobs is simply unsustainable.

The anxiety we are feeling today has been felt by many workers every single day, for decades, especially people of colour and women. But now we are seeing just how vulnerable they all are.

So, what happens when the immediate health crisis is over and we begin to think about what’s next? The 2008 recession and recovery offer lessons as we grapple with how to heal our nation, post-coronavirus.

Back then, the workforce development field moved heaven and earth to re-skill laid-off workers and get them back to work.

Fuelled by about $12 billion in public and private investments, they accomplished this by focusing on in-demand occupations and addressing employer needs.

That approach worked. Millions of people got back to work and the unemployment rate dropped to record levels. In fact, by all the usual measures, the economy boomed in USA, as some think.

But there was a big issue hiding in plain sight. Most of the jobs available then (and now) were not great jobs.

In fact, almost three out of every four jobs pay far too little for a family of four to afford the basics and offer few, if any, benefits.

But the urgency to get people into jobs — any job — exacerbated income and wealth inequality, especially along racial lines.

We focused mostly on re-skilling the supply side of the labour market and not on improving the quality of the jobs and therefore contributed to the unsustainable economy that has left us all vulnerable today.

If our idea of “getting back to normal” means a return to pre-Covid-19 days, we will fail. The pre-Covid-19 economy looked good on paper, but it wasn’t working for most people.

Economy-boosting jobs allow workers to pay their bills, buy from local businesses, and save for the future.

When every family thrives, the community thrives, and we all become less vulnerable to major shocks such as a pandemic.

That would demonstrate we truly learned the painful economic lesson this virus has taught us.

— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.