January 11, 2022

Uganda’s schools reopen after 2 years of closure; Covid-19 has increased poverty and widened inequality

Uganda’s schools reopen after 2 years of closure; Covid-19 has increased poverty and widened inequality

Today’s global news summary brings news affecting Uganda, the world, and the Netherlands, and discusses issues as diverse as schooling, poverty and inequality, and robots.  

Uganda’s schools reopen after almost two years of Covid-19 closures
Education and human capital
As reported by the BBC, Uganda’s schools have finally reopened after the coronavirus pandemic saw them close their doors for almost two years. About 15 million students have been affected by the closure, says the Ugandan government. Authorities also say that 30% of students may never return as some will have now started work and others may have become pregnant or married early. Some lessons have been held during the pandemic, via radio, TV, and newspapers, and some schools have provided printed educational materials, but these have not reached every child. Wealthier Ugandans have also been able to access online classes and home tutors. Pupils who have potentially not had any education since March 2020 will resume classes a year above where they were before the pandemic, which is a concern for children and parents who fear they won’t be able to catch up.

Economists Simon Burgess and Hans Sievertsen, in an opinion piece written early in the pandemic, note how “there will be substantial disparities between families in the extent to which they can help their children learn,” in a home schooling environment. They note how differences in parents’ available time, their resources, and their knowledge “will probably lead to an increase in the inequality of human capital growth for the affected cohorts.” 

Related content
IZA World of Labor articles 

Can cash transfers reduce child labor?
How effective is compulsory schooling as a policy instrument?
Estimating the return to schooling using the Mincer equation
How do adult returns to schooling affect children’s enrollment?

Key topics
Higher education and human capital
The role of education in developing countries
Covid-19—Pandemics and the labor market

The long-term consequences of missing a term of school
Pandemics and the prospects for higher education in developing countries

IZA Discussion Papers
Educator Incentives and Educational Triage in Rural Primary Schools
Household Migration and Child Educational Attainment: The Case of Uganda

Covid-19 has left a legacy of rising poverty and widening inequality
Labor markets and institutions | Development
The global economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is not being experienced equally across the globe, says the World Bank. The impact of Covid-19 is largest for the world’s poorest. Between 2019 and 2021, the average income of the bottom 40% of the global income distribution fell by 2.2%, while the average income of the top 40% fell by 0.5%. This decline has translated into a sharp increase in global poverty. The number of poor people has increased across the globe, but particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Vulnerable groups, such as women, those with low education, and those informally employed in urban areas have been hit particularly hard. The World Bank says that economic recovery in low- and lower-middle income countries needs to be accelerated in order to tackle these increases in inequality and global poverty. For an equitable recovery, spending and policies must be targeted at women, low-skilled workers, and urban informal sector workers.

Lorenzo Cappellari tells us in his IZA World of Labor article that “[t]he belief that people from any socioeconomic background have the potential to succeed and to earn a high income is probably the most powerful incentive to individual effort. Policies that counteract disparities in family background, such as educational interventions targeted at the children of the poor, may foster intergenerational mobility.”

Related content
IZA World of Labor articles 

Self-employment and poverty in developing countries
Poverty persistence and poverty dynamics
Income inequality and social origins

Key topics
What is economic inequality
What can policymakers do to reduce poverty?
National responses to Covid

How to support the self-employed in developing countries
Helping the poor to comply with social distancing
Why does poverty persist across the generations?

Inequality and informality in transition and emerging countries: Roberto Dell'Anno and Dan Hamermesh
Gary Fields - Self-employed poor people in developing economies

IZA Discussion Papers
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Poverty and COVID-19 in Developing Countries
Inequality and Support for Government Responses to COVID-19

Chinese e-commerce company opens stores manned by robots in the Netherlands
Labor markets and institutions
A Chinese e-commerce giant, JD.com, has opened two stores in the Netherlands that will be manned by robots preparing and delivering packages, reports CNBC. Located in Leiden and Rotterdam, the stores, branded Ochama, will sell food, beauty products, and home furnishings. Shoppers will order their goods using an app and then go to the store where their purchases, after they scan a barcode in their app, will be picked and sorted by robotic arms and delivered to them by conveyor belt. The company has further plans to open two stores in Amsterdam and Utrecht.  

IZA World of Labor author Richard B. Freeman says that “Workers can benefit from technology that substitutes robots or other machines for their work by owning part of the capital that replaces them.”

Related content
IZA World of Labor articles 

Who owns the robots rules the world
How is new technology changing job design?
Innovation and employment
Knowledge spillovers and future jobs

Key topics
Digital transformation, big data, and the future of work

How can knowledge and new ideas be turned into jobs?
Self-checkout and Neo-Luddism
We can't blame the loss of mid-level jobs purely on robots
How can governments mitigate the global decline in labor income share?

Automation and the future of jobs: Stijn Broecke in conversation with Daniel S Hamermesh

IZA Discussion Papers
Testing the Employment Impact of Automation, Robots and AI: A Survey and Some Methodological Issues
Robots and the Origin of Their Labour-Saving Impact