The COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons on building more equal and sustainable societies

18 June 2020

This discussion paper by a group of scholars across the fields of health, economics and labour relations argues that COVID-19 is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis from which there can be no return to the ‘old normal’. The pandemic’s disastrous worldwide health impacts have been exacerbated by, and have compounded, the unsustainability of economic globalisation based on the neoliberal dismantling of state capabilities in favour of markets. Flow-on economic impacts have simultaneously created major supply and demand disruptions, and highlighted the growing within-country inequalities and precarity generated by neoliberal regimes of labour market regulation. Taking an Australian and international perspective, we examine these economic and labour market impacts, paying particular attention to differential impacts on First Nations people, developing countries, women, immigrants and young people. Evaluating policy responses in a political climate of national and international leadership very different from those in which major twentieth century crises were addressed, we argue the need for a national and international conversation to develop a new pathway out of crisis.