September 2020


  1. Many around the world were pessimistic about inequality even before pandemic
  2. Covid-19 in Brazil has exposed socio-economic inequalities and underfunding of its public health system
  3. If university campuses close, can everyone learn from home? What happens when the home becomes the classroom in India

Many around the world were pessimistic about inequality even before pandemic


The coronavirus outbreak stopped much of the world in its tracks in early 2020 and continues to cast doubt on the well-being of households and communities around the globe. But even before the pandemic, many people around the world felt pessimistic about income inequality, governance and job opportunities, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in spring 2019.

Across 34 countries surveyed, a median of 65% of adults said they felt generally pessimistic about reducing the gap between the rich and the poor in their country. Many also held doubts about the way their political system works (median of 54%) and the availability of well-paying jobs in their country (53%). When it comes to their country’s education system, however, more people expressed optimism than pessimism (53% vs. 41%). 

As the coronavirus outbreak has intensified, these four issues – inequality, politics, employment and education – have received new attention. The United Nations has cautioned that a lack of social protections could send millions back into poverty, while others have warned that the virus might harm democratic governance, lead to more job insecurity and force school closures across the globe.

In 25 of the 34 countries surveyed by the Center in 2019, income inequality was the most common area of pessimism among respondents. In seven other countries, it was the second-most frequently named area of concern. In France, 86% of adults said they felt generally pessimistic about reducing the gap between the rich and the poor – the highest share across the countries surveyed. Around eight-in-ten or more also said this in Spain (84%), Greece (82%) and Germany (79%).

Worldwide, many people also expressed pessimism about governance. In 24 of 34 countries, majorities or pluralities said they were pessimistic about the future of their nation’s political system. This view was especially common in some countries that have experienced high-profile political crises recently, including the UK (Brexit), the United States (impeachment), Lebanon (WhatsApp tax protests), Argentina (inflation) and Brazil (Amazon fires).

When it comes to the availability of well-paying jobs in the future, more people globally saw this negatively than positively. However, in some countries – including the U.S., Sweden, the Netherlands and the Philippines – the availability of well-paying jobs was a source of optimism.

In several countries, those who place themselves on the ideological left were more pessimistic about inequality than those on the ideological right. This divide was most pronounced in the U.S., where 81% of left-leaning respondents were concerned about a need to reduce inequality, compared with 42% on the right.

While all ideological groups were generally pessimistic in the countries surveyed, there were also large divides between left and right in Hungary (33 percentage points), Lithuania (23 points), Brazil (20 points), the UK (19 points) and Israel (19 points).

Attitudes about reducing inequality were also tied to views about children’s financial future. In countries where people tended to be pessimistic about reducing inequality, people also tended to be less optimistic about the financial future of their country’s children.


Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.


Kat Devlin  is a research associate focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.  J.J. Moncus  is a research assistant focusing on global attitudes research at Pew Research Center.


By                    :                     Kat Devlin and J.J. Moncus

Date                :                      August 6, 2020

Source            :                      Pew Research Center

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Covid-19 in Brazil has exposed socio-economic inequalities and underfunding of its public health system


Brazil currently has the world’s second highest number of deaths from covid-19. The lack of action from the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, and his open denial of the pandemic is widely seen as being one of the reasons for this crisis. However, while that is undoubtedly one of the causes of the high rate of infection and deaths from covid-19, we argue that the country’s underlying conditions—its deeply rooted socio-economic inequalities, the fragmentation and chronic underfunding of its public health system—are equally important factors. In the midst of a rapidly evolving public health and economic crisis, there are early signs of some form of resilience in the system, and possible lessons to be learned for the country’s future.

Although the pandemic has not yet reached its peak in Brazil, the country is at risk of being shattered by the coronavirus. The bed occupancy rate in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is over 90% in three Brazilian states—Amazonas, Ceará, and Rio de Janeiro. How did Brazil reach this point? It is the combination of the health system’s flaws and entrenched inequalities, as well as President Bolsonaro’s denialism and lack of action that have cost the lives of so many Brazilians.

Since Brazil’s first case of covid-19 at the end of February 2020, Bolsonaro has denied the gravity of the pandemic and acted against public health measures such asphysical distancing. He has used words such as “hysteria”, “neurosis” and “fantasy” to criticize the reaction of people and the media to what he classified as a “little gripe.” [1]  Within one month, two of his ministers of health left their position, refusing to implement Bolsonaro’s plans to end quarantine, and prescribe hydroxychloroquine to all covid-19 patients regardless of their health condition. But despite his antics and blunders, it is too simplistic to only blame Bolsonaro for the rapid escalation of the epidemic.

It is really the underlying conditions of Brazil’s health system that have allowed the pandemic to take hold and get out of control. Brazil’s health system is highly fragmented. Although everyone uses the public unified health system (Sistema Único de Saúde – SUS), 25% of the population hold private health insurance, mostly through their employment. This has created an ethical, equity, and social justice problem within the pandemic, as those who can afford it, use private health services. The large majority of those who cannot pay for an insurance, use the SUS. Long before this pandemic, Brazil’s SUS struggled with chronic underfunding, aggravated by the austerity measures introduced in the aftermath of the 2014-2016 economic recession. [2] Despite the universal public system, 56% of Brazil’s health expenditures are private. [3]  In the last few years, there has been an increase in out-of-pocket expenditures, especially for medicines.

In Brazil, the pandemic started in affluent urban areas more exposed to contagion from international travel. It is now quickly spreading to the suburbs and favelas (slums). Brazil’s deeply entrenched social inequalities and the vulnerability of specific populations, have provided a hotbed for the pandemic. In Brazil, the wealthiest 1% of the population concentrates 28.3% of the country’s total income. About 150 million Brazilians live on an average monthly salary of 420 Reais (around $70). Roughly 13 million Brazilians live in favelas, where hygiene and sanitation is poor. [4]. The virus has also spread among more than 600,000 prisoners in the country, and there is the likely risk of rapid dissemination among the population of Indigenous people, which is approximately 800,000 people.

With such underlying conditions, it is surprising the system did not collapse sooner. Thankfully, a few mitigating factors have been able to boost resilience in the face of Bolsonaro’s lack of action and denialism. There are currently 478,000 active doctors (2.3 per 1,000 population) and 2.3 million nursing professionals. Despite its numerous failings, Brazil’s SUS still guarantees free access to all levels of health services, from primary care to specialists. Its extensive primary health care network in particular stands out: there are 43,000 Family Health teams and 260,000 community health agents in Brazil, embedded in the community. The primary care network functions as a gateway for early case identification, referral of severe cases to specialized services, monitoring of vulnerable groups such as older people, people who are immunosuppressed, chronically ill, and pregnant women. The primary healthcare system also provides surveillance of mental health disorders, rates of domestic violence, and alcoholism during lockdown. 

The joint performance of professionals working in the SUS system, universities and public scientific institutions, have historically helped overcome crises and produced sound public health responses, such as dealing with the Zika outbreak, or the national responses to the HIV and AIDS epidemic [5,6] Most importantly, responsibility for the health system in Brazil is decentralized and regionalized. [5] Decentralised funds for healthcare are larger than the funds transferred by the central state. States and municipalities manage hospitals and services, buy supplies, hire human resources, and carry out health surveillance. As the spread of coronavirus occurs at different time intervals and geographical regions, such decentralisation has allowed the implementation of locally-tailored measures. This localised approach has allowed to keep the epidemic in check to a degree, stopping its spread to the rural areas. 

Despite all the challenges posed by the pandemic, it would appear that the checks and balances of Brazil’s democracy, together with its decentralized health system, still seem to be working, and are tapping into the country’s vast, if depleted, capacity to respond to the pandemic. It would appear that strengthening its national healthcare system and preserving the existing democratic institutions are Brazil’s only guarantees in dealing with covid-19.


Raquel Nogueira Avelar e Silva (Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark)

Giuliano Russo (Centre for Global Public Health, Queen Mary University of London, The UK)

Alicia Matijasevich (Department of Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Mário Scheffer (Department of Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Competing interests: None declared



Lancet Editorial. COVID-19 in Brazil: “So what?” The Lancet. 2020 May 9;395(10235):1461. 

Hone T, Mirelman AJ, Rasella D, Paes-Sousa R, Barreto ML, Rocha R, et al. Effect of economic recession and impact of health and social protection expenditures on adult mortality: a longitudinal analysis of 5565 Brazilian municipalities. Lancet Glob Health. 2019 Nov 1;7(11):e1575–83. 

Andrietta LS, Levi ML, Scheffer MC, Alves MTSS de B e, Carneiro Alves de Oliveira BL, Russo G. The differential impact of economic recessions on health systems in middle-income settings: a comparative case study of unequal states in Brazil. BMJ Glob Health [Internet]. 2020 Feb 28 [cited 2020 Apr 7];5(2). Available from:

Macinko J, Harris MJ. Brazil’s Family Health Strategy — Delivering Community-Based Primary Care in a Universal Health System. N Engl J Med. 2015 Jun 4;372(23):2177–81. 

Barreto ML, Barral-Netto M, Stabeli R, Almeida-Filho N, Vasconcelos PFC, Teixeira M, et al. Zika virus and microcephaly in Brazil: a scientific agenda. The Lancet. 2016 Mar 5;387(10022):919–21. 

Pisani E. AIDS treatment in Brazil: success beyond measure? The Lancet. 2009 Jul 18;374(9685):191–2. 


Date                  :                 June 19, 2020

Source              :                  thebmjopinion           

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If university campuses close, can everyone learn from home? What happens when the home becomes the classroom in India


The reorganisation of work lives bought about by the pandemic has also been met with a reorganisation of domestic space as the site where work now takes place. For Higher Education, this means that homes have now become classrooms. However, the fundamental premise of successful online education is the access to both electricity supply and an Internet connection which are not universally available in India. Drawing on findings from an ongoing qualitative study, Pawan Singh outlines four key ways in which the pandemic has reconfigured Higher Education in India.  

The COVID-19 global crisis has been a taskmaster with many lessons. In India, an abruptly announced lockdown sent most economic activity home leading to a chaotic reorganization of the domestic space. As the ‘work-from-home’ imperative liberated public space from the stresses of human activity, the space of the home became a contested site of blurred boundaries between professional and personal lives. Indian university professors and lecturers found themselves in this predicament as they resumed classes online after a brief hiatus caused by the lockdown. Video conferencing digital services such as Zoom and Google Meet replaced the physical congregation of students in the university classroom from April 2020 onwards.

With plans underway to reopen university campuses with the possibility of going back to online classes in the likely event of another outbreak, it is instructive to understand how the experience of teaching and learning has been for professors and students. Based on an ongoing qualitative study concerning the pandemic reconfiguration of the university classroom, this post presents four key considerations based on in-depth interviews with professors and students. The Indian case presents a unique perspective from a developing context, one in which social relations, technological affordance and socioeconomic inequality intersect to illuminate the extent to which the digital medium can supplant real-life experience.

How does the online pivot change the nature of teaching and learning?

1. Domestic space and time: The transition to online teaching in the early days happened as if digital technologies were being primed for the exceptional event of a pandemic. As online teaching became the buzz in the early days of the lockdown, the switch to digital seemed like a foregone conclusion brimming with possibilities. Easily overlooked in this primacy of the digital is the social situatedness of digital technologies, the material context of the Indian household in which they became positioned to ensure the continuity of the classroom. Some professors, while glad to avoid the long commute to campus, found themselves negotiating the demands of housework entailing supervision of domestic help and elderly caregiving duties. Domestic labour competed with professional effort as the familiarity of the home space became disorienting. The liveliness of the digital at times superseded offline life waiting for its turn.

2. Privacy: Both, the video conferencing platforms and the domestic space of the home, raised privacy concerns for the professors. As the Indian Government flagged cyberattack issues with Zoom declaring it unsafe for public use, professors also had to deal with cooking noises from the kitchen, people walking in and out of the room at any time and young children demanding attention. How should they prioritize privacy in online teaching? Should they worry about data breaches and cyberattacks or forge past the interruptions at home to go on lecturing? The contested nature of the home space with its unregulated interruptions is perhaps a timely reminder that the online medium can ensure continuity but not seamlessness.

3 .Digital labour: For most professors, online teaching was no match for the physical environment of the classroom that afforded simple gestures like maintaining eye contact and being co-present to enrich the experience of lecturing. The digital medium allowed connection across boundaries yet constrained meaningful interaction through the often turned-off screen camera behind which student presence was not guaranteed. To appear professional on camera, the professors felt they had to dress nicely and try to simulate a scholastic environment at home. They often felt vulnerable appearing on camera in their home space where they would normally be relaxed. The anxiety of not being able to look back at students, who often had their cameras off, made them feel further exposed. Compelled to modulate their speech volume to ensure they were being heard, lecture delivery through the digital medium was not always comforted by student attention.

4. Infrastructures and Networks – India is known globally for its technological innovation and digital economy and rising number of Internet users expected to reach a billion by 2025. Yet, only 25 percent of homes in urban India and 15 percent in rural parts have a stable Internet connection. The stark reality of Internet infrastructure and access to high-end devices that ensure a fulfilling learning experience severely limits the digital potential. Consider also the use of mobile hotspots and dongles in addition to a broadband connection all of which come with poor connectivity issues. Even more basic a need than the Internet connection is electricity supply, which further widens the digital divide in India. Despite a near-universal electrification of Indian homes under the Saubhagya Scheme (Good Fortune Scheme), the quality and regularity of supply has been reported to be abysmal in rural parts of the country.


Who can learn from home?

The fundamental premise of successful online education is the access to both electricity supply and an Internet connection without which we have a bleak picture of privileged haves and underprivileged haves of digital technology. Access to reliable infrastructures shapes not just how well a student is able to learn in exceptional times but also levels of motivation, enthusiasm for learning and the optimism about a bright future earned through higher education. Another consideration in this transition to the online mode is that of college tuition fees and whether Indian students are entitled to a subsidized rate since the cost of running an education institution online goes down.

Despite the digital promise of inclusivity and access to the Internet becoming a fundamental right in India in 2020, the new space of education opened up by the digital, at the end of the day, remains constrained by its geographical context. The social situatedness of the digital in an Indian home – a space structured by familial obligations and shared resources – reiterates the irreplaceability of the physical context of learning in the university classroom. The professors in our study expressed a strong preference for return to the university but maintained a pragmatic view of likely institutional directives to stay online as part of the preparedness for an uncertain future.



This post drew upon research conducted by UX Whale, a multidisciplinary research collected based in New Delhi.


Pawan Singh holds a doctorate in Communication from University of California San Diego. From 2016-2019, he was a New Generation Network Scholar at Deakin University and the Australia India Institute in Melbourne. His research examines narratives of privacy with regards to gender/sexuality, class and racial identities within a transnational framework. His research expertise is interdisciplinary at the intersection of media and technology studies, postcolonial feminisms, legal studies and cultural studies.


Date                  :                  September 29, 2020

Source              :                  LSE Impact Blog

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