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

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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 withincountry
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.

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