Rethinking Urban Poverty and Inequality in Post Covid-19: Some Pointers for Policy Consideration in Ghana
In Ghana, there is evidence to show that the distribution of food in order for people, especially low income people, to stay at home cannot be said to have been very successful as many of the intended beneficiaries claimed to have been left out. Consequently, many of them could not stay at home. The argument was that they are “daily-income-earners” or what is commonly called “by-day-earners” therefore they need to go out daily in order to make ends meet as in the case of India and other poor countries. According to The Guardian (2020) millions of people living on the edge, working in Ghana's largely informal economy, each day of the lockdown deepened their worries. There is anecdotal evidence to support the view that the lockdown made life extremely difficult for the urban poor. This claim is justified from the evidence that over 60% workers are in the informal sector. Available statistics show that informal sector's share of total employment increased from 80.5% in 1987/88 to 88.6% in 2005/2006. The private informal sector is estimated to employ about 86% of the economically active persons. Therefore the informal sector is very important as this is the sector that hosts many low-income “by-day” earners. Worst of all, observing social distancing as one of the protocols, was not effectively complied with by the many informal sector workers especially market women across many markets in the country. The steps that were taken to shut down some markets rather worsened the plight of many “by-day” workers many of whom are women household heads. The main reason has to do with the nature of their work. There is also evidence that some passengers ignored the social distancing protocols to be observed by private transport operators especially intra-city mini buses commonly called “trotro” because of limited supply of “trotro” during rush hours. These challenges have therefore revealed some pointers that justify rethinking of urban poverty and inequality as critical development issue and how this might be addressed. To effectively address this, there is the need to understand how these issues affected the implementation and enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols on social distancing and staying-at- home. Unpacking the dynamics should help to approach poverty issues in more innovative ways. In order to understand the context of this argument, a review of conventional thinking about poverty will be useful.