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26/05/2020 The Communication Science magazine

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Social Classes

Covid-19 shows us again that there is still a divide in social classes. All classes are facing their own types of problems during this crisis.


Have you seen the posts on social media from celebrities and influencers asking us to stay home from their million euro houses? Or the criticism Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and the like have received for ‘not donating enough money,’ in the eyes of some people? This is all part of a situation that has been brought to light by the outbreak of the coronavirus. The divide between social classes is alive and well, even though we are more connected than ever.

The divide between social classes has been around ever since the birth of the first civilisations. The three social classes as we know now were the most prevalent during the French Revolution, as the distinction between the first, second and third estate were clear as day. Times have, however, changed since the French Revolution, and we like to believe that we have minimised the class divide in the modern-day. Globalisation has kicked in and there seems to be a focus on the similarities between rich and poor people, instead of stressing the differences. However, due to the different kinds of problems all classes are experiencing, the class divide has become more apparent.

Your Income Determines Your Grades
The lower class’ issues are mainly issues of monetary or health-related descent. A mother in Texas
expressed her concerns regarding her daughter’s education. They recently moved into an apartment that didn’t have an internet connection, and with all her education now moving to an online environment, she’s afraid that her daughter would fall behind. Other families struggle with the closing of day-cares. People are forced to stay home with their kids instead of working the hours they need to make ends meet. This will bring them in financial trouble, even though they just need to take care of their kids. 

Half of all coronavirus cases in Uruguay could be traced back to a designer that attended a party in Spain

Meanwhile, in South-America, the coronavirus has become a class issue in itself. Half of all coronavirus cases in Uruguay could be traced back to a designer that attended a party in Spain. The first death related to the coronavirus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was a 63-year old housekeeper. This doesn’t sound that weird until you hear the story behind it. The woman was a housekeeper in one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Rio. Her employer travelled back to Rio from Italy and developed mild symptoms. She did not tell her housekeeper. A month later, the housekeeper died from the effects of coronavirus.

Most Jobs Aren’t That Important After All
The majority of the middle class that works with computer programs is stuck home in the quarantine times as they are able to work from home. People in jobs of lower pay still have to go to work as people still need the service at this time. The coronavirus, however, has led to a re-evaluation of low-income jobs. Whether it’s the cashiers and fillers in the supermarket, people working in the bakery, or everyone in the healthcare sector, they have proven to be of detrimental importance in a time where we as a society have to go back to the basics.

Social media has been nothing short of a battleground in these times. Jeff Bezos has been facing a lot of criticism for donating $100 million to a food poverty NGO. You’d think that that would be seen as a good thing. However, in this time, people are angry at Jeff Bezos for ‘only’ donating $100 million, 0.1% of his wealth. In contrast, Jack Dorsey donated a quarter of his fortune ($1 billion) to COVID-19 relief efforts. Football players in the English Premier League launched a ‘Players Together’ fund to support the British NHS. However, they have even faced criticism from people online for not donating enough money.

The Future of Essential Jobs
In my opinion, the situation that has developed has some downsides as well as upsides. The fact that the worth of the essential, low-income jobs will most likely be evaluated after the crisis is over is a very good thing. Cashiers, nurses, and other people in these sectors have been underpaid for too long in relation to the role they play in society. These jobs have turned out to be the building blocks of society, and they need to get paid like they are.

However, people still are not in a position to decide what other people do with their money. They might criticise footballers for not donating more, but they don’t know what the footballers are doing behind the scenes with their money. They might be supporting families, or doing other charitable work that they don’t want to be in the spotlight for. This ‘criticising rich people’ trend has stressed how much work there still is to do if we’re going to break down the class system. More impoverished people being envious of rich people’s lives, while also critiquing how they live, sounds a whole lot like a clear class system to me.

 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect Medium’s editorial stance.

 

Cover: Engin Akyurt

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