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COVID-19 expected to leave 150 million more people in extreme poverty worldwide

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2 min read
The health emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the rate of child malnutrition has increased in parts of Venezuela. Photo: Humberto Matheus/Sipa USA
The health emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the rate of child malnutrition has increased in parts of Venezuela. Photo: Humberto Matheus/Sipa USA

The coronavirus crisis “threatens to scale back years of progress” reducing poverty and inequality worldwide, according to a new report.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), best known for its annual Davos summit of global leaders, said 150 million more people were likely to be left in extreme poverty by the global recession resulting from the pandemic.

It would take the proportion of the global populating facing severe hardship to 9.4%, when it had previously been forecast to fall to 8%.

The WEF Global Risks Report 2021 argued COVID-19 had not only caused more than 2 million deaths, but wiped out working hours equivalent to 495 million jobs in the second quarter of 2020.

Underlying inequalities in healthcare, education, financial stability and technology also meant the pandemic had “disproportionately” hit certain groups, it added.

Young people, unskilled workers, working parents and particularly mothers are among those worst affected economically, according to the research. “Poor working conditions and lack of social protections are likely to aggravate the impact on the world’s two billion informal workers.”

“This setback in the global development agenda will heighten vulnerability to future shocks and threaten the erosion or collapse of states,” the authors added.

The report, published on Tuesday, combines research with a survey of more than 800 global business, political and civil society leaders ahead of WEF’s annual summit later this month.

The summit, a controversial event that has become a symbol of the global elite, is being held virtually due to the pandemic, rather than the usual Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Klaus Schwab founder and executive chairman of WEF, said the event was an “opportunity for world leaders to outline their vision and address the most important issues of our time.”

The risks report warns: “Job losses, a widening digital divide, disrupted social interactions, and abrupt shifts in markets could lead to dire consequences and lost opportunities for large parts of the global population.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only claimed millions of lives, but it also widened long-standing health, economic and digital disparities. Billions of caregivers, workers and students –especially minorities who were disadvantaged before the pandemic –are now at risk of missing pathways to the new and fairer societies that the recovery could unlock.”

It even claims such challenges could spark social unrest, political fragmentation and geopolitical tensions. These in turn could impact societies’ effectiveness in tackling other key threats like climate change, the report added.

WATCH: UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty: ‘We need to build back better’