Expansion of Disparities
During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- The Income Gap and the Digitalization Gap -

The current wave of globalization has starkly highlighted an expanding global income gap and the stagnation of the middle-income bracket. Japan is no exception. The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have significantly expanded economic and digital disparities. This tendency was reflected in the results of the “Questionnaire Survey on the Effects of the Spread of COVID-19 on Telework-based Work Styles, Lifestyle, and Awareness,” two of which were conducted by Toshihiro Okubo of the Keio University and NIRA.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused an economic recession, but has also sparked a wave of technological innovation, which may lead to a further expansion of disparities. The background to this might be the fact that the use of telework is linked to economic disparities. That is, while high-income workers and large corporations actively use telework and digital tools, which will increase their productivity in the future, lower-income strata and small and medium-sized enterprises are not riding the wave of digitalization. As a result, economic disparities are becoming more conspicuous due to the existence of digital disparities.

Toshihiro Okubo
Professor, Faculty of Economics, Keio University / Senior Adjunct Fellow, Nippon Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA)