According to Oxfam-Québec, COVID-19 has exacerbated the social inequalities that already marked the beginning of the new millennium.
While there is a new billionaire almost every day, 160 million people around the world have fallen into poverty since the beginning of the pandemic. Québec is no exception to this trend.
Indeed, while a minority has seen spectacular returns on their investments, others have depended on government interventions to maintain their standard of living, now threatened once again by galloping inflation. Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope: Québec is often recognized, and sometimes even celebrated, as a relatively egalitarian society, to the point that we sometimes aspire to emulate the Scandinavian societies, hailed as the great champions of egalitarianism.
In 2016, Québec adopted a Government Health Prevention Policy (PGPS) with nine ambitious targets, including the reduction of socioeconomic inequalities in premature mortality. Québec demonstrated its ambition to join the global leaders in this area by launching a concerted action with the mandate to identify social and fiscal policies implemented in other jurisdictions that promote a better redistribution of wealth and to analyze their relevance and feasibility in the Québec context. At the end of this mandate, we propose six avenues for improvement inspired by programs that have demonstrated convincing or promising effects in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and the United States.
The recommendations, ranging from programs to structural policies, concern the fields of family, education, poverty and exclusion, income security and employment, housing, and the community sector. What they have in common is the need for access, equity, continuity and coordination of public services in Québec. There are many challenges, but considering the beneficial effects of reducing inequalities on population health and economic growth, the government should ensure that it has the fiscal and financial means to achieve its ambitions.
Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, McGill University
Original title: Politiques publiques favorisant la redistribution de la richesse : Revue systématique d'études basées sur l'inférence