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Appreciated or exploited? Key workers in a coronavirus world

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27.03.2020

Around the world, workers in what have been deemed "essential services" are tirelessly trying to keep the coronavirus pandemic in check and to keep us all going in the meantime.

These are the nurses, farmworkers, grocery clerks, truck drivers and teachers, whose backs many of us stand on so that we can engage in our "social distancing".

And guess what - an eight or, perhaps, 10-hour shift in a grocery store, whether stocking shelves in France or working the cash register in the United States, was not a particularly pleasant experience before the coronavirus shocked the world into realising that these essential workers exist.

The question is, will this global health emergency wake us up to the need to change our global economy to more fairly benefit the many who keep it afloat? Or, will we merely recognise the workers in essential services now with a grin when we see them at the store (where you can still shop in stores) or the clinic, or a "thank you" post on Facebook, only to forget about them tomorrow?

The definition of essential services varies by country but, typically, the same occupations tend to make the list.

For instance, when California established its "shelter in place" order, which calls upon the state's residents to stay at home when at all possible and to refrain from public gatherings, it explicitly exempted professions in what the US federal government deems the "critical infrastructure sector".

This sector includes people who work in agriculture, healthcare, water and waste management, education and public security, including specific professions such as police........

© Al Jazeera