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Last updated: July 9, 2021

Gig Workers during the COVID-19 Crisis in France: Financial Precarity and Mental Well-Being

We set out to explore how precarious workers, particularly those employed in the gig economy, balance financial uncertainty, health risks, and mental well-being. We surveyed and interviewed precarious workers in France during the COVID-19 crisis, in March and April 2020. We oversampled gig economy workers, in particular in driving and food delivery occupations (hereafter drivers and bikers), residing in metropolitan areas. These workers cannot rely on stable incomes and are excluded from the labor protections offered to employees, features which have been exacerbated by the crisis. We analyzed outcomes for precarious workers during the mandatory lockdown in France as an extreme case to better understand how financial precarity relates to health risks and mental well-being. Our analysis revealed that 3 weeks into the lockdown, 56% of our overall sample had stopped working and respondents had experienced a 28% income drop on average. Gig economy drivers reported a significant 20 percentage point larger income decrease than other workers in our sample. Bikers were significantly more likely to have continued working outside the home during the lockdown. Yet our quantitative analysis also revealed that stress and anxiety levels were not higher for these groups and that bikers in fact reported significantly lower stress levels during the lockdown. While this positive association between being a biker and mental health may be interpreted in different ways, our qualitative data led to a nuanced understanding of the effect of gig work on mental well-being in this population group..

COVID-19, Lockdowns and Well-Being: Evidence from Google Trend

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many governments to implement lockdowns. While lockdowns may help to contain the spread of the virus, they may result in substantial damage to population well-being. We use Google Trends data to test whether the lockdowns implemented in Europe and America led to changes in well-being related topic search terms. Using differences-in-differences and a regression discontinuity design to evaluate the causal effects of lockdown, we find a substantial increase in the search intensity for boredom in Europe and the US. We also found a significant increase in searches for loneliness, worry and sadness, while searches for stress, suicide and divorce on the contrary fell. Our results suggest that people’s mental health may have been severely affected by the lockdown.

Taking a wellbeing years approach to policy choice

Every day, policy makers must decide whether a policy is desirable. They do so by examining its impact on a range of outcomes. But the problem is how to aggregate these disparate outcomes. For example, as covid-19 cases rise again, some lockdown measures are gradually being reintroduced across the UK. These policy choices will lead to outcomes that are good (such as fewer deaths from covid-19, less commuting, better air quality) and some that are bad (unemployment, income losses, loneliness, domestic abuse). How can policy makers aggregate these disparate effects in order to arrive at an overall assessment? To do so requires a “common currency” with which to measure all the effects. The currency we propose is the change in years of human wellbeing resulting from the policy.

Prevention and mitigation of epidemics: biodiversity conservation and confinement policies

This paper presents a first model integrating the relation between biodiversity loss and zoonotic pandemic risks in a general equilibrium dynamic economic set-up. The occurrence of pandemics is modeled as Poissonian leaps in economic variables. The planner can intervene in the economic and epidemiological dynamics in two ways: first (prevention), by deciding to conserve a greater quantity of biodiversity to decrease the probability of a pandemic occurring, and second (mitigation), by reducing the death toll through a lockdown policy, with the collateral effect of affecting negatively labor productivity. The policy is evaluated using a social welfare function embodying society’s risk aversion, aversion to fluctuations, degree of impatience and altruism towards future generations. The model is explicitly solved and the optimal policy described. The dependence of the optimal policy on natural, productivity and preference parameters is discussed. In particular the optimal lockdown is more severe in societies valuing more human life, and the optimal biodiversity conservation is larger for more “forward looking” societies, with a small discount rate and a high degree of altruism towards future generations. Moreover, societies accepting a large welfare loss to mitigate the pandemics are also societies doing a lot of prevention. After calibrating the model with COVID-19 pandemic data we compare the mitigation efforts predicted by the model with those of the recent literature and we study the optimal prevention–mitigation policy mix.

The optimal strategy for prevention and eradication of epidemics

This research uses integrated models to investigate the best response to epidemics, taking into account the effects of the disease on both population and economy, and the financial constraints on governments. The authors present a general two-compartment epidemic model and integrate it into a classic macroeconomic model in order to find the optimal strategy for the prevention and eradication of the epidemic. This theoretical work aims to strengthen the integration of mathematical epidemiological models into economic ones.

Optimal lockdown in altruistic economies

The recent COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgent need to study the impact of an infectious disease on market economies and provide adequate policy recommendations. The present paper studies the optimal lockdown policy in a dynamic general equilibrium model where households are altruistic and they care about the share of infected individuals. The spread of the disease is modeled here using SIS dynamics, which implies that recovery does not confer immunity. To avoid non-convexity issues, we assume that the lockdown is constant in time. This strong assumption allows us to provide analytical solutions. We find that the zero lockdown is efficient when agents do not care about the share of infected, while a positive lockdown is recommended beyond a critical level of altruism. Moreover, the lockdown intensity increases in the degree of altruism. Our robust analytical results are illustrated by numerical simulations, which show, in particular, that the optimal lockdown never trespasses 60% and that eradication is not always optimal.

Compensating for Academic Loss: Online Learning and Student Performance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread school shutdowns, with many continuing education via online-learning platforms. We here estimate the causal effects of online learning on student exam performance using administrative data from Chinese Middle Schools. Using the difference-in-differences approach, we find that receiving online education during the COVID-19 lockdown improved student academic results by 0.22 of a standard deviation, relative to pupils without learning support from their school. Not all online education was equal: students who were given recorded online lessons from external higher-quality teachers had higher exam scores than those whose lessons were recorded by teachers from their own school. The educational benefits of distance learning were the same for rural and urban students, but the exam performance of students who used a computer for online education was better than those who used a smartphone. Last, while except the very-best students benefited the most from online learning, it was low achievers who benefited from teacher quality.

  • Authors : Andrew Clark (PSE, CNRS), Huifu Nong (Sun Yat-sen University), Hongjia Zhu (Jinan University) and Rong Zhu (Flinders University)
  • Publication : Online Learning, Teacher Quality and Student Performance during the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • References : August 2021, China Economic Review, 68, 101629
  • References (prev.) : PSE working paper n°2020-44

Special Issue: Environmental Economics of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Katrin Millock (PSE, CNRS) has co-edited a special issue of Environmental and Resource Economics, that includes both theoretical models and econometric analyses of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the natural environment, and that offers policy ideas for green recovery. In particular, the articles in the issue explore the links between air pollution and COVID-19 health impacts, implications for climate change mitigation policies, and priorities for green recovery policies.