Wellbeing Economics for the COVID-19 recovery
Wellbeing Economics for
the COVID-19 recovery
Ten principles to build back better
The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the many cracks in current economic systems. Already before the outbreak, the world has been facing multiple crises – the climate emergency, rising inequality, and increasing public disengagement from democratic processes. Responses to the pandemic risk greatly exacerbating these crises if we do not challenge root causes.
Based on a COVID-19 policy-tracking project with a team of over 30 international experts, this briefing provides a guide on suitable policies to build back better in response to COVID-19 by prioritising human health, wellbeing, and ecological stability in the long term. We highlight some of the steps that governments and businesses around the world have taken to “build back better” in response to COVID-19 and point to some of the “back to worse” traps that others have fallen into.
Societies can choose two possible pathways in response to this crisis – “back to worse” or “build back better”. “Back to worse” would defend neoliberal economic systems and ideologies by prioritising economic growth, reducing market regulations as quickly as possible and imposing strict austerity measures to curtail public debt. This would greatly risk exacerbating poverty and inequality, decrease life expectancies, and accelerate our climate emergency. This is not what the people want. In the UK, for example, only 9% of respondents in the UK want things to return to how they were before the Pandemic (YouGov poll). “Back to normal” is not a desired option.
There is an alternative. “Building back better” would take the crisis as an opportunity to transform economies and societies in radically positive directions. The creation of wellbeing economies would ensure that our post-COVID-19 world is much safer, more stable and healthy. In order to create a wellbeing economy we must move into the “doughnut” of a “safe and just space for humanity” by staying within planetary boundaries while guaranteeing needs satisfaction for all (Raworth 2017, Trebeck and Williams 2019). Right now, our economies aggravate the climate and ecological crises, and they perpetuate vastly unequal distributions of power and wealth.
“Building back better” will require great creativity and coordination. Concerted effort will be needed to break these path dependencies and develop new institutions that value wellbeing and ecological sustainability simultaneously and for all. New ideas are a crucial ingredient for such an endeavor. We suggest the following 10 principles for responding to COVID-19 but recognize that we are in a unique moment of change with and invite you to engage in this discussion as we work to build back better together.