Coronavirus: BBC poll suggests stark divide between rich and poor countries

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A woman holding a child reacts as she sits with migrant labourers during a protest held against the government's coronavirus measuresImage source, Getty Images
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The poll shows that the coronavirus pandemic has affected certain demographics more than others

The coronavirus pandemic has hit poorer countries harder than the rest of the world, sowing inequality globally, a survey for the BBC suggests.

The survey of nearly 30,000 people shows how different countries have been affected by the pandemic, six months after it was confirmed on 11 March.

The financial toll was a major issue, after lockdowns damaged economies worldwide.

Poorer countries and younger people say they are facing the greatest hardship.

A drop in income was reported by 69% of respondents in poorer countries, in comparison to 45% in richer ones, the poll found.

Outcomes also differed along race and gender lines, with women worse off than men, and black people reporting higher levels of Covid-19 infection than white people in the US.

The research was conducted for the BBC World Service in 27 countries by GlobeScan in June 2020, the height of the pandemic in many places.

In total, more than 27,000 people were surveyed about Covid-19 and the impact it has had on their lives.

"One of the central narratives of this pandemic has been that 'we are all in this together'," Chris Coulter, the chief executive of GlobeScan, told the BBC.

"Our poll finds that the opposite is true. Across different countries and within most countries, results show that those who are most systemically disadvantaged have been hit the hardest."

An unequal world

The pandemic has had a more severe impact on people in poorer countries and has exacerbated existing inequalities, the poll found.

There was a notable divide between countries among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and non-member countries. The OECD is an international group of 37 countries that are among the world's most prosperous economies.

The poll shows that 69% of people in non-OECD countries had their income affected due to the pandemic, compared to 45% of those living in OECD countries.

Overall, the research found that people in Latin America, Asia and Africa were more likely to say the virus had had a considerable impact on them than those living in Europe and North America.

People in Kenya (91%), Thailand (81%), Nigeria (80%), South Africa (77%), Indonesia (76%), and Vietnam (74%) were most likely to have been affected financially.

Image source, Getty Images
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Indonesia has seen one of the highest tallies of coronavirus infections in Asia

People on low incomes in those countries were most likely to say they now had even less money.

But counter-intuitively, people with high incomes in Australia, Canada, Japan, Russia, and the UK were more likely to have been impacted financially by the pandemic than those earning the least.

A generational divide

The pandemic has opened up a gulf between young and old, according to the poll.

Younger generations say they have experienced a tougher time than older generations. This might be because there have been fewer opportunities to work, socialise and seek education during the pandemic.

Some 55% of respondents from Gen Z (people born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s) and 56% of Millennials (people born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s) feel the pandemic has greatly affected their lives.

In contrast, only 49% of those from Gen X (people born from 1965 to 1980) and 39% of Baby Boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) said they felt the same.

Gen Z respondents suffered the worst financial hit, with 63% saying they saw a change to their incomes. Conversely, only 42% of Baby Boomers said their incomes were affected.

Older generations are also more likely to have escaped physical or financial harm. Some 56% of Baby Boomers and older reported no physical or financial impacts, compared to 39% on average globally.

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • Nearly six in 10 people (57%) say they have been affected financially by the pandemic
  • Women say they are facing a greater financial impact than men. The greatest disparities were reported in Germany (32% of women versus 24% of men), Italy (50% versus 43%), and the UK (45% versus 38%).
  • In the US, 14% of black Americans say they or a family member have been infected with Covid-19, compared with 7% of white Americans
  • Parents felt greater impacts from the pandemic, with 57% telling pollsters they have been greatly affected, versus 41% of people without children
Media caption,

Can you become immune to coronavirus?