Understanding behaviour and socio-economic effects during the outbreak

Behaviour and psychological factors are crucial in how people cope with the threat of infection and associated losses. It also concerns the attitudes, actions and behaviour of institutions and political decision makers.

Through Horizon 2020, the European Commission supports research in social sciences and humanities (SSH), as well as in behaviour and mental health. Many of these address various socio-economic and behavioural issues that are relevant to the coronavirus outbreak.

To build evidence for possible policy recommendations for decision-makers in the future, we must understand behavioural evolutions taking place globally during this outbreak. 

New projects

2nd Horizon 2020 call for expression of interest (August 2020)

In May 2020, the Commission launched a second emergency call, through which €128.2 million were awarded to 23 research projects. The projects which involve 347 teams from 40 countries across Europe and beyond.

Among these, 4 projects are receiving a total of €28 million for to investigate Behavioural, social and economic impacts of the outbreak responses:

COVINFORM

Coronavirus vulnerabilities and Information dynamics research and modelling. Led by Synyo GmbH (AT)

PERISCOPE

Pan-European Response to the impacts of COVID-19 and future pandemics and epidemics. Led by Università degli Studi di Pavia (IT)

SHARE-COVID

Non-intended health, economic and social effects of the COVID-19 epidemic control decisions: Lessons from SHARE. Led by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften (DE)

RESPOND

Improving the preparedness of health systems to reduce mental health and psychosocial concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Stichting VU (NL)

Ongoing initiatives and projects

The psychological impact of quarantine

The Commission has recently supported a review of novel scientific evidence to better understand the psychological impact of quarantine. Successful use of quarantine requires reducing the negative effects associated with it.

Longer periods of isolation are associated with poorer mental health outcomes and increased anger.

Extending the isolation period beyond initial suggestions can demoralise and increase non-compliance. Clarity and certainty about timelines are both important.

If quarantine is essential we should mitigate its negative aspects as much as possible by: telling people what is happening and why, explaining how long it will continue, providing meaningful activities for them to do while in quarantine, providing clear communication, ensuring basic supplies (such as food, water, and medical supplies) are available, and reinforcing the sense of altruism that people should, rightly, be feeling.

Impact on mobility of people and goods

REMINDER is a multi-disciplinary research project on the Role of European Mobility and its Impacts, in Narratives, Debates and EU Reforms. The project, which is led by University of Oxford, recently examined “COVID-caused lack of seasonal workers endangers EU food supply chains”.

Migrants, who traditionally filled temporary shortages in farms, factories, distribution and shops, can no longer be recruited as easily as before, resulting today in at least 200,000 missing workers in France, 300,000 in Germany and 370,000 in Italy. 

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Revenues to address the economic impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak is a major shock for the European and global economies. Governments are committing hundreds of billions of euro in cash, loans and bank guarantees to companies and households, while tax revenues are collapsing due to lockdowns.

This adds to the huge amounts lost every year due to tax evasion and avoidance, with estimates reaching €1 trillion. Reestablishing financial stability will be painful, gradual and harming societies as a whole. But raising financial resources necessary to relaunch the economy while reducing socio-economic inequalities and maintaining citizens’ trust in democratic institutions, is feasible.

The Horizon 2020 funded COFFERS project identified a number of measures that address fiscal policy loopholes affecting Member States’ capacity to yield taxes in a fair, transparent and universal manner.

COFFERS website

The Commission already adopted some proposals and is working to further improve the tax administrations’ efforts against tax fraud and evasion.

Tax Transparency Package

Tax fraud and evasion - action plan on fraud/evasion and simpler taxation