Attention to risk of social unrest in the US required

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/7 22:58:41

The White House Photo: Xinhua

The coronavirus pandemic is freezing the world economy and precipitating a collapse in employment in some regions at an unprecedented pace. Close attention to the issue of how to prevent an economic catastrophe from turning into a social one is required.

It is almost certain that unemployment will continue to soar in the US, as the coronavirus situation remains grave with a death toll surpassing 10,000. The country's overall situation is worsening rapidly as the coronavirus has triggered mass layoffs. Just weeks ago in February, unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent, but the figure quickly jumped to 4.4 percent in March. During the week ending March 28, the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits skyrocketed to a record high of 6.6 million.

But still economists warn the worst has yet to come, and that US unemployment will keep surging, approaching the level which can trigger social unrest. Historically speaking, it is not uncommon to see violent clashes erupt amid high unemployment levels. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the unemployment rate in South Los Angeles was near 50 percent. In 1933, during the Great Depression, the highest figure was 24.9 percent. And this time around the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has predicted the US unemployment rate could reach 32 percent.

Such concerns over social stability are not limited to the US. In Italy, social tension is building in some regions as the coronavirus economic freeze continues. 

Just one month ago, some in the West expressed worries over whether unemployment as a result of epidemic prevention and control measures in China would cause social unrest. That outcome has not been what they anticipated. While China still faces difficulties in reviving its economy, it has managed to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control, allowing authorities to focus on addressing the unemployment problem. Of course, some China critics may have neither interest nor willingness to see such progress.

By comparison, fears of social unrest are now mounting in the US due to the mass layoffs. We hope social turmoil triggered by high unemployment will not occur, as it has occurred in history. 

The key to tackling the issue is containing the disease in an effective and timely manner through proper control measures. Only on that basis can the economy be boosted to cushion the unemployment blow. Failing in the first step has already placed the US and some European countries in a difficult position in the fight against the virus. Hope now hinges on whether or not the White House will make the next move more promptly and effectively.

Posted in: GT VOICE

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