Rachel Cable outlines how Covid-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities and what Wales must do to ensure the future is different.
History will remember the Covid pandemic for taking well over a million lives worldwide.
It will remember hundreds of millions being pushed into destitution and poverty.
History will also likely remember the pandemic as the first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time.
A new report by Oxfam has revealed that the world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by $540 billion (£400 billion) during the pandemic; enough to both pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty. ‘The Inequality Virus’ shows that economic, racial and gender divides are deepening.
The report has been published to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s ‘The Davos Agenda’, where members of the global business and political elite are meeting virtually all week.
How history will remember what governments, and those who have been meeting for Davos, did to protect those with the least during and after this pandemic is an unfinished chapter.
Here in Wales, the Senedd has a small and shrinking window of opportunity to create a just economy after Covid; reshaping it so that it’s more equal, inclusive, protects the planet, and ends poverty.
“We cannot return to the brutal, unequal, and unsustainable world that the virus found us in.“
If ever there was a time to do so, it is now.
The virus has given us pause to think; made us reflect on what really matters, and what and who we should value more in our society.
It has also shone a bright light on the critical role played by the nation’s carers throughout the pandemic; as they look after friends and loved ones, both at home and at work, while revealing how caring responsibilities are unequally shared.
Women have kept the world – and Wales – running during the pandemic response, picking up the care workload in homes and in the workplace.
It’s nothing new: globally, women do three-quarters of all unpaid care work and comprise two-thirds of the paid – often underpaid – care workforce, which contributes trillions of dollars to the global economy and enables the wealthiest to prosper.
This work is even more essential and onerous in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and yet it remains underpaid and undervalued; all too often resulting in carers facing the injustice of poverty.
Covid didn’t create these inequalities, but it has exacerbated and exposed them. Social care workers, unpaid carers of disabled, sick and elderly people, childcare workers, and those caring for children all deserve better.
That’s why Oxfam Cymru is urging Wales’ political leaders to make a ‘generation-defining’ commitment to place the nation’s carers at the heart of a new vision for the country as it recovers from Covid.
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We’re calling on the leaders of Wales’ main political parties to state their support for amending the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act to include ‘A Caring Wales’ as a wellbeing goal.
Without such political impetus, we risk continuing the status quo, which sees care systemically undervalued; remaining largely invisible within public policies and economic measures.
Our political leaders must learn the lessons of the pandemic, acknowledging that now is the time to look again at the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, ensuring it both reflects experiences from Covid and recognises the vital importance of paid and unpaid care.
We are at a pivotal point in our response to the pandemic, a moment that will be written about in history books. We cannot return to the brutal, unequal, and unsustainable world that the virus found us in.
Valuing care and investing in those who provide it must be the foundation of a wellbeing economy in Wales. Political support for introducing ‘A Caring Wales’ as a wellbeing goal is a litmus test of our political leaders’ solidarity with those who provide care and those who are cared for.
It’s a test they mustn’t fail.
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