On the 22nd of February, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) organised the online policy roundtable aiming at presenting and disseminating the OECD’s recently published report “Well-being and Covid-19: Life in the pandemic”.

Online Policy Roundtable

The event, introduced and moderated by Jutta Schulze-Hollmén, Director for Resources of the EPRS, was broadly focused on the implications of the coronavirus crisis for people’s lives and how it affected their jobs, incomes, health, social connectedness and the work-life balance.

The floor was then taken by Michal Sinecka, Slovak MEP and current Vice-President of the Parliament, who highlighted how important is to learn from the crises we all have been facing and make changes real; the moment to reflect on the recovery has come and it is now that governments should know how to address their policies to go beyond the domestic dimension and adopt a cross-sectorial approach; for all these reasons, the Vice-President remarked the importance of analysing the effects of the pandemic on young people who suffered the major impact on mental health and vulnerable groups that have been left out of society. It is therefore important to value the reports, such us the one presented during the event, and to disseminate them among the policy makers.

Carrie Exton, Head of Well Being Data Insights and Policy Practice OECD WISE Centre, presented the report object of the round table. The latter is the result of the analysis of the impact on well-being in the first 12-15 months of the pandemic, for which the OECD Well-Being Framework has been used a guide. Regarding the methodology It should be emphasized the difficulty in finding high-quality, high-frequency, large-sample data, which are still too rare in the case of social, relational and environmental outcomes. The innovative data collection, using new internet-based and experimental time use surveys, showcased throughout this report, could be further enhanced. The Senior Analyst went more deeply into the analysis outcomes demonstrating how the pandemic affected every dimension of well-being (e.g., health, incomes, work-life balance, education etc.) and how the insecurity and the feeling of wearing out has impacted on people’s mental health: by late 2020, 1 in 4 people were at risk of depression and anxiety and, in the same period 1 in 5 felt lonely and 1 in 3 felt out of society. Experiences of the pandemic have varied depending on age, gender, race and ethnicity; younger adults have suffered the largest declines in mental health, social connectedness and subjective well-being in 2020 and 2021, facing job disruption and insecurity. Looking at the numbers of NEETs, it seems the decade-long decrease has reversed with this crisis. Carrie Exton concluded the presentation stating that well-being approach to policy and recovery has to be adopted in a coordinated manner in order to achieve a “triple win” solution, namely a recovery channel that can simultaneously contribute to addressing current well-being concerns, promoting equal opportunities, and improving future well-being outcomes. It is thus important to: Refocus policy actions on the outcomes that matter most; Redesign policies taking a multidimensional approach; Realign across policy departments and levels of governments; Reconnect people and institutions to support them.

Afterwards, Céline Nieuwenhuys, Secretary General of the Federation of Social Services for Brussels and Wallonia, remarked the need to get closer to vulnerable people who suffered the most during the covid crisis. Digitalisation is often taken as a solution but it can turn into a trap without considering that it can be very problematic for people who suffers the digital divide and which often live in low socio-economic conditions; the narrative on digital education can work in a long term perspective but does not give an immediate response. Hence, the Secretary General concluded that it is important to give democratic answers, caring more about the feeling of counting as a citizen and so thinking on measures that reach most precarious people throughout a territorial assistance namely working on neighbourhoods’ physical desks.

Lastly, Miquel Oliu Barton, Visiting Fellow in Bruegel and Associate Professor in Paris-Dauphine University, concluded the round of speeches. As an expert in game theory, he presented a comparative study, between France Germany and Italy, “Three effective but controversial policies during the pandemic: Green zones, Elimination & Covid certificates”, demonstrating how governments communication efforts and restrictions associated with Covid certificates can produce different outcomes: knowing how to employ covid certificates can lead to uptake vaccine increasing without strict measures, such as closures and lockdowns, that entail major social and economic consequences. It is thus essential to work more on coordination, addressing the choices toward a triple win channel.