Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
I’m fed up of people saying things like ‘we’re all in the same boat’; COVID-19 has not suddenly caused inequalities to disappear. We have never been in the same boat, and a global pandemic has definitely not caused this to change. In fact, what is has done is emphasise and increase the stark inequalities not just around the world, but within countries, within cities, and even within households.
Nobody will ever really have the same experience of anything, but an unprecedented pandemic causing mass job losses and a need to stay inside brings light to just how different our experiences are. Women, BAME people, LGBTQ+ people, key workers and the working-class are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
We don’t know why BAME people are experiencing disproportionate deaths, though scientists are looking into genetic causes for this. Now, I’m not a scientist, but I would think that the UK BAME community is made up of a great deal of different ethnicities, and that it is highly unlikely that there is something common to all of us. Perhaps what is missing here is investigation into intersections with career and class, that which can cause greater exposure to the virus.
When it comes to class, those in precarious work are at huge risk of suffering from severe poverty during lockdown and beyond, with women being more likely to be in precarious work, and BME women being “over a third more likely than white workers to be in precarious work“.
People losing their jobs, being furloughed on £20 a week and expected to survive on this, terrified that they will not be able to get back into work for the foreseeable future, are not having the same experience as those sitting at home, maintaining a comfortable salary and having the expendable income to support local businesses, simultaneously treating themselves and feeling the moral boost that comes with this.
People at home with their abusers with no way of knowing when they will be safe again, are not having the same experience. People losing family members and trying to choose 10 people to attend a funeral, are not having the same experience. People struggling to decide between spending their tiny Universal Credit payment on food for their children or period products, are not having the same experience. People who are trying desperately to ‘work from home’, whilst home-schooling children, feeding children, and trying not to panic during a global pandemic, are not having the same experience.
We cannot reduce this to a time of reflection, a time to catch up on reading or start a new hobby. We can’t all afford to take this time to grow and exercise self-care, because we do not all have the resources to do so, and we must all acknowledge this.
Politicians, in their cushty houses with their spacious gardens and ability to work from home, must acknowledge that furlough pay for those who work on precarious contracts, or Universal Credit for those who have lost jobs, is not enough.
People will suffer, struggle with their mental health, and die, if the government continue this rhetoric that we are all in the same boat, without providing people with ample resources to avoid drowning.