The Coronation of Austria: Part 6

Update from our Corona Panel Survey

By Barbara Prainsack, Bernhard Kittel, Sylvia Kritzinger, and Hajo Boomgaarden, University of Vienna, Austria [contact: coronapanel2020@univie.ac.at]

Inspired by the work of Clare Bambra and colleagues, in our previous update (16 June) we called for a syndemic perspective on the effects of the COVID crisis. This means that we need to pay attention to the interaction between health-related, social, economic, and political factors, which often cumulatively result in an exacerbation of inequalities. Since our last update, we have zoomed into a few different domains to gain a deeper understanding of how different practices, characteristics, and determinants are connected. This is what we found.

Loneliness

Overall, few Austrians say they feel lonely, and the number of those who do continues to decrease: It dropped from 10% at the end of March to 6% in early June. People who are unemployed, as well as students, experience more loneliness on average, and pensioners are less lonely on average than other groups. We also found that the more lonely people have felt, the less likely they have been to comply with pandemic containment measures.

Economic effects on younger people

Before the surge of COVID-19 infections among younger people in some parts of the world such as the United States, we often heard that the young are at least less likely to develop serious symptoms. This is still debated. What is clear, though, is that the economic effects on younger cohorts have been harsh in almost every part of the world. In Austria, our data show that people aged 25–34 have been disproportionately affected by unemployment and a reduction of working hours. They have also suffered greater income losses on average than 35–50 year olds.

Asylum seekers in crisis

During the COVID-19 crisis, it has been much more difficult — and often impossible — for people to move across borders, including those fleeing from war, conflict, and persecution. When we asked respondents for their views on immigration more broadly and asylum seekers specifically, critical views prevailed overall. For example, most respondents (54%) oppose the reception of people from refugee camps in Greece — with the exception of voters of the Green party, among whom a narrow majority (55%) are in favour. We found that economic status, income losses during the COVID-19 crisis, or expectations about the economic development in the future were not correlated with people’s views; only education level and party preferences were.

Concerns about technological replacement

[Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Sterling Heights Assembly Plant]

Skepticism of new technologies has been traditionally high in Austria. This is particularly true in the domain of biotechnologies, but also in vis-a-vis other technology such as nuclear power. In our Corona Panel Survey we asked our representative sample of respondents what they thought about the role of technology in another context, namely about robots and AI at the workplace. 44% believe that robots or AI will replace human work in the future; 15% disagree with this stance. Independent of education, age, income, or gender, we found that voters of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) are most likely to strongly agree, and voters of the Green Party are most likely to disagree. We found a similar pattern in terms of how comfortable people would feel if robots were to assist (rather than replace) their work in the future. Reasons for this pattern may include that many voters of the Freedom Party are more likely to work in sectors at risk of automation, and that they are the group who reports the least experience with new technologies at the workplace.

Timeline of policy measures

Last but not least, Markus Pollak, Nikolaus Kowarz und Julia Partheymüller have updated their timeline of policy measures, covering the period from mid April to mid June. In that period, almost all restrictions have been lifted, to the point that life looks almost normal — and politicians have begun to warn of complacency in light of the danger of a second wave of surging infections. The policy timeline is available in German (a link to the English translation will be added as soon as it is available).

Over the summer we will be updating on our new findings monthly, instead of bi-weekly. We will rest, work, and try to stay safe. Stay well — and stay tuned!

An overview of all updates (with links) is below.

I'm interested in all things bioscience, medicine & society. For more on our solidarity work, see https://barbaraprainsack.wordpress.com/about/

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