How can we work for the poor

Corona: higher risk for the poor

Status: 04.03.21 2:24 p.m.
by Florian Flade, Armin Ghassim, Markus Grill, Andrej Reisin, Jonas Schreijäg

The coronavirus is not the great equalizer: poor people and precarious workers are affected much more often. But in most federal states there is a lack of data and solutions, as a survey by NDR, WDR and "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ) shows.

Anyone who waits for a bus in Bremen at five in the morning usually drives to work: whether forklift drivers, parcel packers or nurses: millions of people cannot work from home.

One worker says: "They might think of the office people, but we work in the warehouse. Somebody has to keep it going. Otherwise you have nothing to feed." Keep your distance and reduce contacts? Many people here are wondering how this should work: In leisure time, you should keep your distance, but the buses are so full in the afternoons, "there are sometimes 60 people on the bus, squeezed like sardines".

Not a surprising finding for the social scientist Stefan Sell: "Last year, at the beginning of the corona pandemic, there was the thesis that the virus is the great equalizer because everyone is equally affected. But the first studies were able to show relatively quickly that there is indeed an uneven distribution of risk. "

Findings mainly from other countries

Findings are mainly from the USA and Great Britain: In an overview from September, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) writes that "the studies with large numbers of cases from the USA and Great Britain provide a clear picture of the extent of the socio-economic Inequality ". According to this, "people from regions with a high proportion of people with low incomes have an increased risk of hospitalization as part of a COVID-19 disease". In Germany, on the other hand, these data are rarely collected, as the RKI critically noted.

On request, the RKI will inform you that various studies will soon clarify the situation better. In particular, attempts are being made to analyze "social differences in the risk of infection" and "data on the social and professional situation" with local and nationwide antibody surveys. "Social characteristics of individual reported COVID-19 cases" are not part of the reports to the RKI. Therefore, one also wants to use "routine data from the health insurance companies for socio-epidemiological questions about Covid-19 events". However, none of the investigations is currently completed.

Examination of the severity of the courses

Nico Dragano, Professor of Medical Sociology in Düsseldorf, has already evaluated health insurance data. Together with the AOK Rheinland / Hamburg, he examined how the employment status affects the severity of the illness. It was found that the risk for recipients of unemployment benefits to come to hospital because of Covid-19 is significantly higher - for ALG-II recipients even almost twice as high. In an interview with Panorama, Dragano also criticized the data situation: "The study situation is very, very thin, especially on the risk of infection itself. If you knew more precisely where we can find those at risk, then you would of course have better options to react precisely and to target these people protect."

Only two out of 16 federal states have any data at all

But research by NDR, WDR and SZ shows: 14 out of 16 federal states know nothing about the socio-economic distribution of the risk of infection. It was often pointed out that, apart from age and gender, there was no other data about income, place of residence or origin of the Covid19 patients. North Rhine-Westphalia did not answer at all. Only in two city-states are there at least rough figures: Bremen and Berlin have collected data on the socio-economic impact. One consequence: In the badly affected Bremen-Tenever there is now an information point where residents can discuss all questions about Corona with hospital staff.

Berlin has published a study on the living environment and the socio-economic situation of those affected. Result: "The higher the proportion of unemployed or transfer recipients in the districts, the higher the Covid-19 incidence." Furthermore - as in Bremen - more densely populated districts and quarters with many immigrants are particularly affected.

Migrants in intensive care units more often?

Will more people with a migration background have to go to hospital because of Corona? The state health ministries also have no data on request. The "Bild" newspaper reported this week on an alleged "survey" among chief physicians, according to which "90 percent of intubated, critically ill patients had a migration background". When asked by Panorama, the pulmonologist quoted said, however, that the alleged survey was only about "individual conversations with friendly intensive care physicians". According to the "Bild" report, RKI boss Lothar Wieler is said to have speculated in a non-public conversation that an above-average number of people with a migration background are in the intensive care units. Both Wieler and the pulmonologist feel that "Bild" is not correctly reproduced.

The fact is: people with a migration background work more often than average in poorly paid but systemically relevant jobs that are often not possible in the home office, for example in care, cleaning or the post. According to the German Center for Integration and Migration Research, they make up 35.5 percent in this sector, significantly more than their share of the labor market of 22.9 percent. And: You often live in poorer residential areas like Bremen-Tenever.

In Bremen, too, this led to speculation about cultural backgrounds. Social worker Mihdiye Akbulut sees language barriers, but the problems mainly in other places: "There are 300 people living in a high-rise building. They are people who work in the Mercedes factory, in grocery stores or as educators. Many women are in cleaning companies. None of them can to the home office. "

Data protection as a problem

The Bremen Health Senator Claudia Bernhard from the Left Party is annoyed by the inadequate data: "The infection situation in the city districts says first of all that people live there, but not where they are infected. We need a lot more evaluations from the companies, from the companies. This is also a huge problem in terms of data protection law. As far as evaluations are concerned, we are lagging behind in Germany. "