The Effect of Covid-19 and Disease Suppression Policies on Labor Markets

The Effect of Covid-19 and Disease Suppression Policies on Labor Markets

A Preliminary Analysis of the Data




  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening


How can governments contain the coronavirus without doing severe damage to workers? The challenge is ongoing, testing policy makers’ mettle and ability to act strategically. In this astute analysis, economists Jonathan Rothwell and Hannah Van Drie look at the initial results of measures taken in 20 nations. Their tour of the countries’ different approaches highlights that those economies doing the best at navigating the treacherous path between physical affliction and economic ruin are focused on buttressing the employer–employee relationship.


Governments have taken different approaches to containing the spread of the coronavirus while limiting economic damage.

Policy makers’ attempts to achieve a sweet spot that controls the spread of COVID-19 and allows the economy to function have varied greatly, as have their results. In a study of 20 advanced nations, different public health measures – such as mandating physical distancing – did not correlate with the extent of economic damage incurred by a country.

As measured by “a COVID job displacement rate,” deaths per capita and tests per capita, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark and Germany are achieving reasonable success in both containing the virus and maintaining a strong foundation for economic recovery. But the United Kingdom, United States...

About the Authors

Jonathan Rothwell and Hannah Van Drie are economists at the Brookings Institution.

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