Editorial – COVID-19: Revealing Social Inequalities

Par Manuel Litalien , Ontario Hub Co-supervisor
Par François Brouard , Ontario Hub Co-supervisor
08 March 2021

COVID-19 Social Inequalities

This editorial introduces the Special Edition COVID-19: Revealing Social Inequalities led by the Ontario Hub

Pre-Covid, never in the history of humanity have profits and the concentration of wealth been so high. According to Forbes, the number of millionaires has boomed globally. With such accumulation of wealth came a golden age of philanthropy. This trend was accompanied by a widening gap between the rich and the poor, as well as a failure to eliminate inequalities. Then, COVID happened. It comes as no surprise that social issues of the past remain a challenge. The current crisis has accentuated the failures of our economic system and the effects of decades of concerted efforts to welfare cutsIndeed, the impacts of poverty and inequalities are further amplified by the current health crisis 

Rapidly, the connection between race/ethnicity and the risk of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization became apparent in the US and was tightly related to socioeconomic status. The question quickly followed for Canada, on how different communities were being affected. However, there was insufficient data, only later would it be further researched [1]Another notable risk factor for a specific population is the poor management of longterm care facilities: inadequate provision of health care to the elderly, overcrowded establishments along with poor treatment of workers, not to mention the sector’s low wagesThis created a vicious cycle of insufficient personnel and a perfect environment for the spread of the COVID virusThese results stem from years of austerity policies and tax cuts, steering away potential government revenue resulting in weaker social safety netswhich are desperately needed today to fight the impacts of the pandemic. 

Pre-existing conditions such as lack of decent housing, access to clean water, overcrowded homes in some indigenous communities, or inadequate working space and dormitories among migrant workers, constitute some of the ongoing challenges in containing the spread of the virus, as outbreaks continue to occur sporadicallyCanada’s increased homeless population is now also a source of concern for authorities who need to provide shelter from the elements that also allows for sufficient physical distancing. Then there is the sense of isolation due to lockdowns, increased mental health issues, and substance use. Across Canada, COVID-19 has exposed the many shortcomings in accessibility and availability of adequate services and healthcare for those in desperate need. Adding to this long list is how economic inequalities faced by women have also been aggravated: they are disproportionately affected by lack of employment opportunities and are also facing increased domestic violence due to the stay-at-home policy. Finally, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) are by default designed to fit menillustrating yet another form of inequality in effectively protecting women against the virus. 

In sum, this special edition focuses on the discriminatory practices of the past that are now an integral part of our system’s current lack of resiliency in coping with COVID. Perhaps the pandemic has exposed the limits of philanthropy, but it has also revealed how the sector can adapt, and attempt to face the gigantic task ahead. As the crisis unfolds, ongoing innovations are on the rise in the sector, such as the Give 5 Campaign”, “The Other 95”, “Sector Stabilizing Fund”, Indigenous Peoples Resiliency Fund (IPRF), the “Vital Signs Project”, or “IncreaseTheGrants”. All philanthropic actors recognizthe profound need to establish new ways of collaborating between grantmaking foundations, philanthropic organizations, and government agencies. Equality and inclusion are at the forefront of these improvements, all in the hopes of tackling this historical adversaryWhat remains to be seen is if these new initiatives are here to stay, or are simply short-term commitments; and if a social justice approach to philanthropy will prevail in a post-pandemic era. 

Notes de bas de page

[1] English: COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts, March 2021, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/11-631-x/11-631-x2021001-eng.pdf?st=gh_-LF4_