DataPoint: How has Covid-19 changed our lives?

Covid-19 still affects our day-to-day lives in many ways, and its long-lasting effects are still evolving. In this episode of DataPoint, we met with two professors and the co-founder of a mutual aid to discuss the ways Covid-19 is changing and will continue to change our everyday lives


This episode, recorded in English, was produced as part of the Taub Center’s 2021 Herbert M. Singer International Policy Conference: “Distance by Design: Opportunities and Implications for Israel.” You can listen to it here or on your favorite poadcast app.

Prof. Claude Fischer is a sociologist from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a keynote speaker at this year’s conference. Prof. Alex Weinreb is the Research Director at the Taub Center, and an expert in demography. Danielle Cantor is the co-founder of “Culture of Solidarity”, a grassroots initiative with thousands of volunteers that provided tens of thousands of food packages at the start of the pandemic in Israel.


However, what seems clear, says Prof. Fischer, “is that we’re moving towards more hybrid models than we are used to.” In sectors from high tech to non-profits, many workplaces are at least considering, if not already implementing, a hybrid model of work, combining both in-person and remote elements. Around the world, remote work is also increasing, and new companies are emerging that operate completely online.

Even though many governments imposed travel bans and denied entry to travelers arriving from countries affected by the virus, international borders became less meaningful as people began working from anywhere. Professors Fischer and Weinreb both agree that there has been a robust move towards remote work, and that, at least in some industries, this change seems to be a permanent one. “We’ve discovered that some things, in fact, can work better remotely; for example, people don’t have to commute as much,” says Prof. Fischer. This in turn, will have implications for where people will choose to live, on transportation, real estate values and downtown cities, and even on work-life balance.

Covid-19 has affected everyone, however it has had different effects on disparate segments of the population. “The impact in the early days was much more concentrated among the less educated, those people who are working in jobs that they couldn’t do at home. They were the ones who were sent home on unpaid leave. The people who own small businesses suddenly had no physical customers. They were closed,” says Prof. Weinreb.

Other vulnerable populations include the elderly who live alone, adds Prof. Fischer. “For them there’s no doubt that the Covid-19 experience and the shutdown experience meant much more feelings of loneliness.” Nonetheless, loneliness has been a widespread concern even before the outbreak of the pandemic and it is very hard to find any evidence for long-term trends in loneliness, he claims. Furthermore, as Prof. Weinreb adds, the concept of loneliness is in part based on people’s expectations of what it means to be alone and very much varies between places and cultures.

Despite the increase in depression and anxiety due to Covid-19, Prof. Weinreb notes that during times of crisis and extreme stress, there is a rise in social solidarity and more collective actions. Those things in and of themselves play a pivotal role in bridging the social distance and reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

This was the case with Danielle Cantor, who, together with two of her friends, started an initiative called “Culture of Solidarity” aiming to help people in need during Covid-19. Two weeks before the outbreak of the pandemic, Danielle and her friends decided to start a project of rescuing food and redistributing it to vulnerable communities. As the Covid-19 lockdown began, restaurants turned to them to give away their food, and by redistributing it through various organizations and initiatives, they realized the need was much greater than they had imagined.

As the Covid-19 infection rates rapidly climbed and more people and organizations approached them for help, Culture of Solidarity branched out to provide services as well, such as providing food boxes, hot meals, house renovations, and phone calls , and even helping to bring people who had lost their jobs during the shutdowns back into the workforce. Within a short period of time, Culture of Solidarity became one of the largest volunteer groups engaged in various activities focused on helping those in need.

When asked to explain the success of her initiative, Danielle is clear and concise: “Community. That’s the answer.” She adds, “We encourage a Culture of Solidarity within the community. We encourage people to take responsibility for the community.” When Danielle looks at the future and imagines Israeli society post Covid-19, she has a clear vision of a shared responsibility for a better future: “The pandemic definitely put a spotlight on problems, but we need to continue this groundwork and continue mobilizing.”

More on the Taub Center Podcast

In the Taub Center’s podcast, DataPoint, we zoom in on Israel’s bigger socioeconomic trends and focus on real stories. Who are the people – the millions of data points – who stand behind the numbers? How do their individual journeys embody or complicate the trends we see at the macro level?

You can subscribe to DataPoint on iTunes, Stitcher, or in any other app where you listen to podcasts. Be in touch at podcast@taubcenter.org.il.

Thank you to the Herbert and Nell Singer Foundation for making this episode possible! For more information about sponsoring future episodes, contact michalp@taubcenter.org.il.

Thanks to the awesome team at Podcastico for editing and sound, and for all of their work to make this podcast episode possible.

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