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Roundtable Series: Reflections on a Pandemic 4 - Global Economy

Wednesday 25 November 2020

To acces the livestream, please click here (Password: MAIREvents)

In the fourth of our pandemic-related panels, academics from the Faculty of Humanities will outline and consider the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy. As the panelists will show, while the pandemic has undoubtedly raised new challenges, it has also served to exacerbate pre-existing economic challenges for people, accelerating some of the effects of those. At the same time, the pandemic has at least served to shine a light on issues often previously relegated to the bottom of political agendas.

Dr Crystal A. Ennis - Global Labour Migration and the Pandemic in the political economy of capitalism
Dr Ennis is a University Lecturer at Leiden University

The transformation and curtailment of labour, mobility, and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic has had immediate, obvious economic ramifications and longer-term consequences. The spread of the virus and the sharpening of borders has left many migrant workers in legal, economic, health, and social limbo. Crucially the pandemic has exposed hidden truths about the nature of global labour migration and temporary migration regimes around the world. It is laying bare the precarity and inequality that characterise global labour regimes. In this intervention, I will discuss what the pandemic has revealed about labour migration and the global political economy of work and workers on the move.

Dr Ruben Gonzalez-Vicente - Behind the mask: COVID-19 and the world market.
Dr Gonzalez-Vicente is a University Lecturer at Leiden University

After decades of neoliberal orthodoxy, mainstream economists and policymakers across Europe had arrived at a consensus: capitalist markets represented the most efficient mechanism for the allocation of scarce resources, and as such they needed to be promoted, expanded and protected. In the grand scale, this translated into far-reaching liberalization, and in the rise of transnational forms of production. At a micro-dimension, governments and businesses worked relentlessly to marketize a growing number of aspects of our lives. And yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to haunt Europe in March 2020, the market proved painfully inefficient in delivering the medical supplies necessary to keep us safe and healthy. States intervened to incentivize the local production of medical equipment, regulate prices and trade, and to take control of private hospitals. Pundits called for a de-globalization of supply chains. And in Spain, people from my parents’ generation got busy sewing masks and creating networks of distribution based on solidarity, while my friends volunteered to buy the groceries for their elderly neighbours. The coronavirus has unsettled the era of market triumphalism, and raised questions about the limits of markets and the role these should take in the construction of an efficient but just social order as we look into the near future (e.g. distribution of vaccines) and beyond.

Dr Saori Shibata - Digitisation and work in the (post-) pandemic times

Dr. Saori Shibata is a University Lecturer at Leiden University

The Covid-19 economic crisis has prompted further discussions on the advance of automation and its benefits. The longstanding fear that “robots will take away our jobs” has the potential to become more real in the Covid-19 crisis-era. Robots do not get sick nor require safety measures in the same way that humans do, and therefore represent less of a risk for employers. Moves towards the robotisation and automation of human labour, therefore, require our consideration in the light of the Covid-19 crisis. It is crucial to identify potential problems and concerns regarding the impact of advanced machines and technologies on work in the (post-) pandemic times.

Dr Christian Henderson - “Welcome below sea level”. The convergence of the environment and the economy in 2020

Dr Henderson is a University Lecturer at Leiden University

The Covid-19 pandemic can be seen as a manifestation of a broader environmental crisis. Rather than an anomalous event, I propose that it is symptomatic of systemic ecological exhaustion and the encroachment on planetary boundaries. In this talk I will contextualise Covid as the latest in a series of diseases that are partly caused by habitat loss and industrial farming. In addition I argue that Covid is a feature of a deep environmental crisis. The expectation of policy makers that they can continue to pursue growth and return to the status quo following the pandemic appears to ignore climate change, biodiversity loss, and other indicators of ecological exhaustion. I conclude by questioning how we can reconsider the relationship between environment and economics.

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