The elderly have already been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, but one Oxford economist thinks that they should shell out to ease the economic burden on the young. He’s since been accused of “scapegoating” the vulnerable.
“Young people benefit the least from the lockdown measures, because they are less susceptible to the virus,” economist and professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve told Belgian news channel VRT on Thursday. “The older generation should realise that young people are sacrificing themselves, both economically and in terms of mental health.”
To even the score, the 41-year-old Oxford professor – who heads the prestigious university’s ‘Wellbeing Research Centre’ – proposed a tax on the elderly, possibly a once-off payment. However, he did not mention what age he sees his tax kicking in from, or what to do in the case of the elderly who couldn’t afford such a levy.
The economic and mental health problems highlighted by De Neve are real. As governments the world over scramble to bail out their floundering economies, Belgium’s debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to cross 100 percent this year, along with Cyprus, France, Portugal, and Spain. European unemployment is projected to double in the coming months, according to one estimate, while the World Health Organization’s mental health department warned on Wednesday of an upsurge in mental illnesses as a result of the pandemic and lockdown measures.
However, from a health standpoint, the elderly have disproportionately borne the brunt of the deadly illness. As of last month, nursing homes accounted for nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths in Belgium. Similar figures have been reported in Italy, Spain, France and Ireland.
In some European countries, including Italy and Ireland, the over-60s account for more than 90 percent of all Covid-19 deaths.
Given this stark reality, governments would likely face a political firing squad if they tried to tax the elderly, as De Neve suggests they should.
The Belgian economist was accused online of “scapegoating” the old, with one commenter slating him for suggesting such a proposal “in a country where taxes are highest and pensions are lowest.”
Mostly in times of crisis calls for othering a certain group and scapegoating them come to surface. After Trump blaiming the Chinese for #COVIDー19, a Belgian economist calls for a tax on the elderly. These are your parents and grandparents, mind you.https://t.co/PvthFQEOgx
— Dyab Abou Jahjah (@Aboujahjah) May 14, 2020
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