COVID-19 will leave deep scars on the world economy, even after recovery

Just as some patients recovering from COVID-19 suffer long-lasting symptoms, it’s becoming clear that the same will be true for the global economy once this year’s V-shaped rebound fades.

While $26 trillion worth of crisis support and the arrival of vaccines have fueled a faster recovery than many anticipated, the legacies of stunted education, the destruction of jobs, war-era levels of debt, and widening inequalities between races, genders, generations, and geographies will leave lasting scars, most of them in the poorest nations.

“It’s very easy after a grueling year or more to feel really relieved that things are back on track,” said Vellore Arthi of the University of California, Irvine, who has examined the long-term health and economic hit from past crises. “But a lot of the effects that we see historically are often for decades and are not easily addressed.”

All told, the decline in gross domestic product last year was the biggest since the Great Depression. The International Labour Organization estimates it cost the equivalent of 255 million people full-time jobs. Researchers at the Pew Research Centre reckon the global middle class shrank for the first time since the 1990s.

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