The FSU London study center is in the heart of the most affluent city in the UK, making our location one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in. In this city center, it feels as though I am living in a utopian society. Efficient transportation, universal healthcare, heavy surveillance to ensure citizen safety, a plethora of green spaces; what more could one want? From this point of view, it is difficult to comprehend the notion and statistics that deem this city to simultaneously be the center of the UK’s most staunch economic disparities and inequality. While we may not encounter these areas in our immediate environment, it is important to note that this conflict exists.
During orientation, our guide informed us about “life in the city”. She thoroughly described how to get around using public transit, notable local pubs and every detail about what side of the street to walk on (everything seems to be backwards here, and I have been scolded by commuters for standing on the wrong side of the escalator). Notably, she also advised us on the growing homeless population in London, “Following the pandemic, a lot of people have fallen on hard times, you will see a lot of homeless people who may ask you for change….” I presumed that the lockdown during the pandemic had caused economic hardship for the people of London. Though, I was surprised at the way that she had worded this, as if it was a novel phenomenon. This prompted me to look further into the economic inequality in London following the Covid-19 pandemic.
I remembered the UK governments suboptimal response to the initial outbreak during the pandemic, but I was unaware about how strict lockdown procedures were in London. The city experienced a spike in poverty increase, particularly for underprivileged communities and minorities. Much like the US, Covid-19 spread quickly in areas of spatial inequality. To this day, it has still been difficult for those who were nonessential workers to recover from the effects of the pandemic. There was a sharp increase in unemployment as well as the number of families who needed access to foodbanks, indicating that food insecurity was a major problem following the pandemic. Perhaps this is why many restaurants in London offer their food for a fraction of the price a few hours until closing and donate the rest of their products at the end of the night. On that note, I looked into further research online and asked locals about the extent of inequality following the pandemic and found that this is somewhat correct. As there is a lack of cooperation by individual government actors and disparities in funding and available help for different councils, the level of wealth inequality has been exacerbated in different communities. Businesses and charities have made an effort to offer help in areas where funding for public bodies is scarce. However, the consequences of inequality continue to worsen.
This conflict and the extent to which the distribution of wealth has become more painful following the pandemic is very reminiscent of our current economic plight in America. I think that I would like to do my capstone project on a comparison of the systems and structures between America and the UK, as we are two western countries that seemingly experience similar conflicts. Specifically, I would like to focus on the nuances in which we differ between social and economic issues.