Day: 14 August 2021

Did Lockdowns Push 100 Million People Into Extreme Poverty?

Gathering data on extreme poverty is difficult at the best of times, but it’s doubly harder (or well-nigh impossible) during a pandemic. Such data are typically collected via face-to-face household surveys, but these were put on hold last year.

In a study of 122 national statistical offices carried out in May of 2020, the World Bank found that 69% had completely stopped collecting data via face-to-face surveys, and a further 27% had partly stopped (leaving only 4% that had continued with normal data collection).

We therefore don’t yet have good data on the effect of the pandemic on extreme poverty. However, there are ways of estimating how many people are in poverty, using data from national accounts (i.e., GDP per capita). These data are not collected via face-to-face surveys, so it has still been possible to obtain them during the pandemic.

In order to estimate (or ‘nowcast’) the number of people in poverty, the World Bank takes the last year for which the full income distribution was known, and then shifts it left or right, depending how much GDP per capita grew between that year and the current year. (See the diagram on p.5 here.)

Using this method, World Bank researchers calculate that 97 million people fell into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. In the chart below, 97 million is equal to the difference between 732 million (the estimated number of people in extreme poverty) and 635 million (the expected number).

This “represents a historically unprecedented increase in global poverty”. Note that the increase was concentrated in the Middle East, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Interestingly, the World Bank projects that there will be 21 million fewer people in extreme poverty in 2021. This represents a year-on-year change of –2.9%, which is approximately the same as the annual declines observed in the years before the pandemic.

This decrease in extreme poverty is somewhat unexpected, given that 2021 has seen some of the largest epidemics in low and middle-income countries. “Would these developments not suggest,” the researchers ask, “that poverty is bound to increase further in 2021?”

So why is poverty projected to decline? The researchers suggest that the lifting of lockdown measures may be a factor. In 2020, many developing countries responded to the pandemic by locking down major parts of their economy.

“These lockdowns decreased incomes and employment, causing an increase in extreme poverty,” say the researchers. Yet in 2021 “the appetite for lockdowns has been smaller”. As a matter of fact, the difference in the policy response between 2020 and 2021 is reflected in the Oxford Blavatnik School’s Stringency Index.

“In May 2020, on average 25 out of 27 low-income countries in OxCGRT had a stringency index value higher than 50, whereas in May 2021, on average 10 low-income countries crossed that threshold.”

Of course, lockdowns may not account for all of the 97 million people pushed into extreme poverty last year. But it’s plausible that they account for some. Even 50 million would be a massive figure to add to the costs side of the ledger.

Zero-Covid ‘Hermit’ Economies Heading For Economic Slump

Countries that have permanently shut their borders in a misguided effort to reduce Covid infections to zero are heading for economic catastrophe, according to Matthew Lynn in the Telegraph.

Controlling Covid through lockdowns and closed borders was a triumph to start with. As the pandemic has dragged on, and borders remain sealed for years without end, it is going to take a huge economic toll. Australia is heading back into recession even as the rest of the world recovers. New Zealand is seeing investment flee.

In truth, in an increasingly globalised and networked world, countries cannot exist in semi-lockdown forever and borders cannot remain permanently closed without doing huge economic damage. They can turn themselves into hermits if they want to – but the price will be a very high one. …

After a record 30-year run without a single recession, the [Australian] economy shrank last year, and it is now expected to contract again over the next couple of quarters.

Huge swathes of the population are back in lockdown as Covid infections rise, and output is inevitably starting to fall. As the rest of the world recovers, and growth accelerates in the United States, Britain, and, even if slightly more sluggishly, across most of mainland Europe, both countries are illustrating the cost of ‘zero-Covid’ strategies.

Worth reading in full.

Even if We Set Liberty and Social Responsibility Aside, Vaccine Passports Are Still a Bad Idea, a Doctor Writes

There is a good letter in the Telegraph today written by a doctor who highlights that vaccine passports are pointless because people who are ‘jabbed’ can still spread the virus.

Sir – Discussions about vaccination passports have centred on personal freedom and social responsibility, yet no one appears to have conceded that the vaccination will do little to stop the spread of coronavirus.

I am a doctor and have been double jabbed. I expect the vaccination to mitigate the virus if I get it, but not to stop me from getting it or from passing it on. The Delta variant will still be transmitted within both the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

Vaccination will not stop the spread of the disease. It will, however, provide individual protection. Passports would be relevant only if the vaccination stopped the spread of coronavirus. It doesn’t.

Dr Steven R. Hopkins
Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

Yet the Government still seems set to go ahead with its plans to bar the unvaccinated from nightclubs and other ‘large venues’ (the meaning of which is likely to continue expanding).

Number of U.S. Job Openings Only Willing to Take On ‘Jabbed’ Americans Almost Doubles in a Month

While the number of U.S. employees only willing to take on new staff who are vaccinated against Covid remains low, the ‘no jab, no job’ trend appears to be increasing at a worryingly high pace. A new study has found that the number of job postings requiring applicants to have been ‘jabbed’ has almost doubled in the last month. MailOnline has the story.

The number of job postings requiring vaccinations were up 90% by August 7th from the month prior, nearly doubling from the number of postings in July, according to the report by AnnElizabeth Konkel – an economist with the job board Indeed.

Konkel noted in the report that vaccination requirements in job postings increased in many sectors that had not previously mandated vaccines. Some simply required “vaccination” and others “explicitly” required inoculation against Covid.

“The share of job postings per million that require being vaccinated against Covid explicitly is up 34% compared to one month prior,” the report reads. 

In comments made to CNBC, Konkel noted that even listings that don’t specifically outline vaccines for Covid it remained clear: “They don’t mean the polio vaccine.”

The report specifically highlighted the software development sector, which only had 3.5 job postings per million that stated vaccination was required in February.

The number of software development job postings per million requiring vaccination had jumped to 437.9 by July, an increase of more than 10,000%. 

“It’s a similar story for other sectors like accounting, retail and marketing that don’t normally require vaccination but are now starting to,” the report reads.

Of the sectors highlighted in the report, the one with the most job postings per million requiring vaccination in July was education. There were 2,166 job postings per million requiring vaccination that month, according to Indeed. …

Companies like McDonald’s, Disney, Walmart, Google, Tyson Foods and United Airlines have said that they will require at least some workers to be fully vaccinated. 

The Indeed report did not specifically address it, but MailOnline has spotted several job postings not requiring vaccination – instead providing small signing bonuses for those who are inoculated against Covid.

“New hires who show proof of their Covid vaccination earn a $100 bonus their first day,” reads a job posting for an Amazon warehouse attendant.

Worth reading in full.

Firms Charging Well Over The Advertised Cost for PCR Tests

PCR test providers are charging British holidaymakers up to four times more than the official advertised price for tests. In a bid to force “cowboy” firms to bring their prices down, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has lowered the price of NHS Test and Trace tests for some travellers from £88 to £68, still costing more than £270 for a family of four. The Telegraph has more.

Companies are claiming they can provide tests for as little as £20, which pushes them to the top of the Government’s list of approved travel test providers because they are the cheapest.

But once the potential customer clicks on to the firm’s website, they find the real prices are up to four times more than they claimed.

Others were found to be offering a cheap price but it was only available at one of their sites and only if the customer visited in person. This meant that for the vast majority of those who click on to them, they will only be available at the higher price. …

The Telegraph investigation found 247 HomeTesting, using North London Laboratory, was listed by the Government at £20 for an on-site test but charged £80 when people clicked through to its website. It lowered the price to £69 after being contacted by this newspaper.

Abicare Health was listed at £20 for a self-swab at home on the Government website. But those arriving from Green List countries for a day two test would actually have to pay £75 for a home test. The firm has been contacted for comment. 

1Rapid Clinics, using Nonacus Ltd, was listed by the Government as charging £23 for a day two home test. But this price was only applicable if  the kit was collected from their site in Marylebone, London.

A test for a trip to a Green List country delivered to a prospective holidaymaker’s home would cost £84. An on-site test was listed at £70. The firm has been contacted for comment. …

Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators’ Association, said the Government’s measures [of slightly lowering the cost of its own testing services] were “little more than tinkering” and did not “go anywhere near far enough to meaningfully cut the costs of travel.”

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up