A proportionate response is the maximal one? Economic and social rights during the pandemic

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This paper analyses how responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have interacted with economic and social rights during the first two years of the pandemic (in 2020 and in 2021) in the Australian state of Victoria. The pandemic has naturally focused attention on health, resulting in much government action to protect public health by preventing COVID-19 infections. However, Victoria’s multiple lockdowns have also imposed heavy socio-economic burdens, which have been unevenly spread, exacerbating the vulnerable positions of already marginalised groups and individuals. In addition, in contrast to what was hoped for by some commentators, the crisis has failed to bring about fundamental change in economic and social policies undermining the enjoyment of economic and social rights. The reasons behind these outcomes can be located, most obviously, in the blunt approach chosen early on that characterised the pandemic response throughout. However, they also resulted from limited consideration of the demands of economic and social rights, including their inherent tensions and inter-relationships, and from lack of attention to existing inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-138
Number of pages21
JournalAustralian Journal of Human Rights
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Australia
  • COVID-19
  • Economic and social rights
  • Victoria

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