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Europe and U.S.’ different response to COVID-19 crisis

Europe and U.S.’ different response to COVID-19 crisis

Posted July. 08, 2020 07:57,   

Updated July. 08, 2020 07:57


It is often said in the U.S. these days that Americans’ pride has been badly hurt. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed various problems in the U.S. in many areas, including healthcare system, income distribution, and racism. Outsiders’ view of the U.S. has deteriorated during the pandemic. In a recent survey conducted of 10,000 Europeans, 59% of the respondents said their view of the U.S. has worsened after the COVID-19 pandemic and only 9% said their view of the U.S. has improved.

Americans’ pride has been hurt particularly in economy. The case in point is its job market. While the unemployment rate in Europe has hovered around 7% during the pandemic, it has soared to 14% at one point from 3% before the pandemic in the U.S. The U.S. still has a double-digit unemployment rate. The already huge gap between the rich and the poor is widening as tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs are mostly ordinary or low-income people. The U.S. seems to be struggling to revive its coronavirus-hit economy even though it has given away much bigger relief funds than that of Korea and the Federal Reserve has goosed money supply.

The U.S. media, such as The New York Times finds the difference between Europe and the U.S. in the latter’s response to the crisis. The U.S., which guarantees employers’ right to fire employees, has focused on helping the laid off workers instead of preventing them from getting fired in the first place. Many unemployed people, however, are not receiving the support they need for two to three months as the existing administrative system has failed to deal with the increasing number of unemployed people. In many cases, the relief funds the government is giving away are not provided to the people most in need.

The U.S. has shaken off economic crises faster than any other countries based on its flexible labor market and free business environment. While Europe’s economy was paralyzed for years after the global financial crisis in 2008, the U.S. has pulled the global economy out of the abyss under the lead of American tech companies, including Apple and Google. But there are pessimistic voices within the country that the situation is different this time. They point out that free and creative U.S. economy, which was considered as the pride of the U.S., is acting as a poison in this unusual situation.

To be sure, the European model is likely to reach its limits eventually if the situation lasts longer than expected. When that happens, the American way of weeding out failing businesses and bring about new innovations may be proved to be effective again. As of today, it is clear that Europe is getting ahead of the U.S. in its response to the COVID-19 crisis. It will take a while to decide which solution was right eventually.

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com