Our sessions highlighted some of the key risks, foremost among them worsening inequality and the social damage of billions being exposed to the virus and cratering economies.
Societies will address inequality and repair social safety nets
The pandemic is hitting low-income groups hardest — minorities, young people, women, and undocumented workers. Their lack of wealth and overrepresentation in jobs requiring physical presence exposes them to greater hardship and risk.
The crisis has also widened social disparities between the politically left and right, old and young, rich and poor. Labor unrest is increasing as workers demand better protections — personal protective equipment, distancing measures, higher pay, more sick leave, and improved access to healthcare. Participants expect government reforms in response, such as recognizing undocumented workers, investing in healthcare capacity or even the introduction of universal basic incomes in some developed countries.
Action on social justice will increase
Sustained protests against systemic racism are sweeping across the US and solidarity protests have emerged in other countries. While we didn’t explore this question in our sessions, which predated the protests, we think it’s no coincidence this is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. When people are already thinking about a systemic reset, they may also be more inclined to think about correcting systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement may be a harbinger of increased awareness and action on issues of social justice — during the pandemic and beyond.
Urban landscapes will be remapped
COVID-19 will fundamentally reshape cities, accelerating trends already under way. Health concerns will drive residents of large cities to seek lower population density in suburbs and small towns. Remote work will make moving out of city centers increasingly feasible, since commute times will no longer be a factor. These shifts will have profound implications for societies and economies, affecting everything from tax revenues to urban planning and education policy.