More Austerity Means More Protests in 2023

People are being asked to endure austerity cuts while suffering a cost-of-living crisis, write Isabel Ortiz and Sara Burke.

World Economic Forum annual meeting 2023 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. (World Economic Forum/Pascal Bitz, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Isabel Ortiz and Sara Burke
Inter Press Service

World leaders have begun meeting in Davos to discuss cooperation to address multiple crises, from Covid-19 and escalating inflation to slowing economic growth, debt distress and climate shocks.

Three months earlier, finance ministers gathered in Washington, D.C. for the same reason. The mood was grim. The need for ambitious actions could not be greater; however, there were no agreements, evidencing the fragility of multilateralism and international cooperation.

Worse, policy makers — advised by the International Monetary Fund — are resorting to old, failed and regressive policies, such as austerity (now called “fiscal restraint” or “fiscal consolidation”), instead of much needed corporate/wealth taxation and debt reduction initiatives, to ensure an equitable recovery for all.

A recent global report alerts of the dangers of a post-pandemic wave of austerity, far more premature and severe than the one that followed the global financial crisis a decade ago.

While governments started cutting public expenditures in 2021, a tsunami of budget cuts is expected in 143 countries in 2023, which will impact more than 6.7 billion people or 85 percent of the world population.

Proven Harm

Analysis of the austerity measures considered or already implemented by governments worldwide shows their significant negative impacts on people, harming women in particular.

These austerity policies are: targeting social protection, excluding vulnerable populations in need of support by cutting programs for families, the elderly and persons with disabilities (in 120 countries); cutting or capping the public sector wage bill, reducing the number and salaries of civil servants, including frontline workers such as teachers and health workers (in 91 countries); eliminating subsidies (in 80 countries); privatizing public services or reforming state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in areas such as public transport, energy, water; reforming hard-earned pensions by adjusting benefits and parameters, resulting in lower incomes for retirees (in 74 countries); labor flexibilization reforms (in 60 countries); reducing employers’ social security contributions, making social security unsustainable (in 47 countries); and even cutting health expenditures despite Covid-19 not being over.

Austerity and all the human suffering it causes is evitable, there are alternatives. There are at least nine financing options, available even in the poorest countries, fully endorsed by the U.N. and international financial institutions, from increasing progressive taxation to reducing debt. Policymakers must urgently look into these. Many countries have already implemented them.

Protests Around the World

In recent years, citizens have protested austerity all around the world. A recent study on world protests shows that nearly 1,500 protests in the period 2006-2020 were against austerity.

Citizens demand better public services, social protection, jobs with decent wages, tax and fiscal justice, equitable land distribution and better living standards, among others. Protests against pension reforms, and high food and energy prices have also been prevalent. 

Anti-austerity protesters clash with riot police in Athens in May 2010. (Joanna, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Recently, the jobs and cost-of-living crises have been accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in more protests despite lockdowns.

The majority of global protests against austerity and for economic justice have manifested people’s indignation at gross inequalities. The idea of the “1 percent versus the 99 percent,” that emerged a decade ago during protests over the 2008 financial crisis, has spread around the world, feeding grievances against elites and corporations manipulating public policies in their favor, while the majority of citizens continue to endure low living standards, aggravated by austerity cuts.

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Let’s remember that trillions of dollars have been used to support corporations during the pandemic and to support military spending. Now people are being asked to endure austerity cuts, at a time when they are suffering a cost-of-living crisis. The 2023 meetings in Davos faced new protests and demands to tax the rich.

Unless policymakers change course, we shouldn’t be surprised to see increasing waves of protests all over the world.

Clashes in the street are likely to intensify if governments continue to fail to respond to people’s demands and persist in implementing harmful austerity policies. Governments need to listen to the demands of citizens who are legitimately protesting the denial of social, economic and civil rights.

From jobs, public services and social security to tax and climate justice, the majority of protesters’ demands are in full accordance with United Nations proposals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Leaders and policymakers will only generate further unrest if they fail to act on these legitimate demands.

Isabel Ortizis director of the Global Social Justice Program at Joseph Stiglitz’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, former director at the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.

Sara Burke is senior policy analyst at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) New York.

This article is from Inter Press Service.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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17 comments for “More Austerity Means More Protests in 2023

  1. LeoSun
    January 18, 2023 at 16:59

    Who’d a thunk, Two (2) Years later, the Universe’s Culture would be so depleted of life, liberty, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. So f/jacked with!

    Two (2) Years of Biden-Harris et al., calls for a Public Broadcasting Message to ‘Tell Con$umers how NOT to get sucked in, by The Party of War’s $logans, “America Is Back,” to engineer a superpower conflict, in 3-D, Deception, Destruction. Death.’ It’s NOT Pretty….It’s “Economic Warfare” aka $ocial Murder.” It’s universal.

    It’s MADness “Mutually Assured Destruction.” It’s rampant; AND, it’s all, imo, by design, BIDEN-HARRIS, et al. “Awh Mon, the fruit is ROTTEN!!!”

    Delaware’s OLDigarch, BIDEN-HARRIS, posing as POTUS, masquerading as Human, “IS so ripely symbolic of everything that is unchanging, perverted, deranged, hopeless about our political system.” No doubt about it, “The $ystem is broke! The $ystem has been bought and paid for. We can’t get it back!!!” Fuhgeddaboutit!!!

    As the Man who should be President, said: “This whole thing is blowing up in the face of the West. We forced Russia to pivot to Asia, as well as Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. There’s A Whole NEW World Being Formed.” (DENNIS KUCINICH) hxxps://

    “We should build a symphony of human civilization.” (VLADIMIR PUTIN)

    “A COURSE CHANGE is a painful but natural and inevitable process. The future world order is taking shape before our eyes. And in this world order, we must listen to everyone, consider all points of view, all nations, all societies, all cultures, all systems of worldviews, ideas and of religious beliefs, without imposing a single truth on anyone, and only on that basis, understanding our responsibility to fate – the fate of peoples, of the planet – to build a symphony of human civilization.” (VLADIMIR PUTIN @ the Valdai Club Forum, OCTOBER 30, 2022)

    AND, follows, The *Mortar for the “Whole NEW World Being FORMED:”

    * mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
    * mutual non-aggression,
    * mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs,
    * equality and co-operation for mutual benefit, and.
    * peaceful co-existence.

    (*Re-Visit @ PATRICK LAWRENCE: “Zhou Enlai’s Posthumous Triumph” hxxps://

    The BIDEN-HARRIS White House lead the way for sheer indifference to its population. Literally, kill’n the Planet. “There were incidents and accidents. There were hints and allegations,” i.e., “The acceptance and even promotion of mass sickness and death from the COVID-19 Virus & its Variants, indicate that a certain psychological barrier has been crossed in ruling circles in relationship to the use of nuclear war.”

    IF, BIDEN-HARRIS, et al., are willing to sacrifice the lives of 1 million Americans, what qualms do they have about the deaths of millions abroad?!?”…wsws

    Imo, It’s “Controlled & Purposeful Violence” executed by BIDEN-HARRIS, et al.,

    EVERYBODY, FEELS THE WIND BLOW, i.e., The BIDEN-HARRIS White House “UNITE” Congress & NATO to oppose One Country. One Culture. One Man. RUSSIA & Vladimir Putin.

    A New Year’s Resolution, “FUGG ‘EM! Save The Planet NOT Nuke it!” it!!! “A Plan to Save the Planet, ”developed by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research & The Network of Research Institutes.” “KEEP IT LIT.”

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    January 18, 2023 at 04:58

    These ‘elites’ are interested in only one thing: how to save their asses at our expense. We should strive to make their lives hell just as they are doing ours.

  3. shmutzoid
    January 17, 2023 at 20:57

    “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” ———– The art of politics this era is to lower expectations of working people while pretending to care about the welfare of the citizenry. Austerity, of course, will deepen in coming years and throw more people into lives of extreme precarity, and worse. I mean, how else can our corporate overlords pay for war and more war, in addition to keeping the wealth transfer upwards???

    if only there’d be a global solidarity movement of working people – the greatest potential social force in the world, to bring down the whole effing system of capitalism.

  4. Steve
    January 17, 2023 at 20:16

    This is the perfect storm, brewed by the Luciferian psychopaths who run the rules-based Western oligarchy.
    They have no problem with murdering us all if they make a profit.

  5. Rudy Haugeneder
    January 17, 2023 at 19:46

    Only when government debt hits quadrillions, will anybody, including the super wealthy, take notice, and then only perhaps, since lexicon inflation always seems to replace fear. A big CME, already vastly overdue, may fix all our problems after everything is crushed and we the people are globally dramatically reduced to numbers the planet itself might be able to support.

  6. January 17, 2023 at 16:56

    Austerity doesn’t WORK, NEVER HAS! RW BS legislation for the RICH, Corp 1%…. Make the middle & poor classes pay all the TAXES, while continuously giving the RICH, LOOP HOLES & TAX breaks! RW are UNFIT to GOVERN! VOTE Blue in ALL Elections, starting at the bottom & finish at the top! It’s the ONLY way, we can bring back Democracy & equality!

  7. Michael McNulty
    January 17, 2023 at 15:59

    It’s easy for politicians and elites to insist “we must make cutbacks” because their use of “we” excludes “me”.

  8. DH Fabian
    January 17, 2023 at 13:33

    We’re now 27 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor, as US job losses long surpassed job gains. The life expectancy of the US poor fell below that of every developed nation. Liberals/lib media have not considered this an “issue of concern.”

    • robert e williamson jr
      January 18, 2023 at 22:04

      Hog wash! Clinton was elected because he was promised it was his turn by the Deep Stater’s in both parties. Hell the republicans knew they were in trouble getting anyone elected threw in with those Deep State philosophies. In the process they created more division in a younger electorate.

      GHW Bush could only cut serving only term. You see he lost because of the economy. Remember the famous phrase, “It’s the economy stupid?” directed at him? Probably not so much, right! Clinton after being elected turned into a republican dressed in shabby democrat clothing. Rewarded by the “Deep State System”, to a second term. I mean you have never wondered why Bush 41 and Slick Willy got along so well?

      GHW had launched a war in the Mid east and spent tons of cash doing so, Clinton passed NAFTA which I suppose you are referring to as the war on the poor. I can agree that move did little but help big corporations and nothing for the American worker, but the Reagan damage made Clinton like he was pro-union. However Clinton did balance the budget and hand a surplus over to “Shrub”, the village idiot from Crawford Texas.

      Then 911 occurred as GHW met with the Saudi Ranking family in Florida I think it was.

      Shrub launched all out war on Iraq, not even involved with 911 and Afghanistan. Country the U.S. aided during it’s war with Russia. A never ending war that has cost between 3 and 6 trillion dollars depending on the methods and time frames included. The Patriot Act, which conservatives never seem to mention was an enourmous pwoer grab by the Federal Government and the repeal of that act would be good therapy for us all.

      Just as things seem to maybe calm to a moderate “boil” along comes Trumpism, no comment by myself needed here and “Joey”. Even more spending approved by a congress that rather spend money than fix anything.

      So to be correct the “War On The Poor” started with Ronnie Raygun, read up on Reaganomics. That laissez-faire, neo-liberal B.S. I’m sure you will disagree with me, so be it. You are entitled to your own opinion but facts are facts.

      In my humble opinion we are where we are today because the two party system is a shambles brought on by corruption at the highest level of government. Corruption induced by constant badgering and intimidation by the Super Wealthy Elitists, the Deep State. By picking sides we fall into the trap those of the Deep State have set to divide us. We need to agree on an ideology of democracy that will serve us all instead of governance by the highest bidder.

      My opinion also holds that this Deep State group who have thrived on intimidation, threats and violence since the murder of JFK is the culprit destroying America and they are doing so to help their bottom line. Their lobby power overwhelms any power in the hands of the poor, including much of “just getting by” electorate and it shows. This intimidation is the source of devisive politics that paralyze our nations ability to present it’s citizens with stable functional governance.

      As for the MSM, if either party was serious about effecting change in our government they would demand the truth from any media source instead devisive misinformation reports that the media entertainers regurgitate for their elitist bosses. Neither party does. This is no time for emotional response to B.S. spewed by these sources.

      The old out dated leadership of both parties needs to go away. Just wondering, have you ever heard of the Dulles Bros. ?

      Thanks CN

  9. Carolyn L Zaremba
    January 17, 2023 at 12:22

    What is needed is the overthrow of the capitalist system, the taking over of private corporations and turning them into public utilities (transportation, health, Internet, etc.). The obscene ill-gotten gains of the billionaires must be confiscated and redistributed to support the public. Anything less than the eradication of capitalism with its greed and profit obsession will not solve anything. A system based on profit above all else cannot be reformed. People have been trying for a century and have failed. To kill the tree, you must dig up the root or it will grow back.

  10. mgr
    January 17, 2023 at 11:12

    In a democracy, the government has no money of its own. It’s our money, supplied by taxation in various ways to be used to improve society for all, that is, for we the people. Especially in Western democracies, elite political leaders are using that money not for the betterment of the public but purely for the pet policies of the well connected and self-enrichment. Very often, political leaders end their service richer than they began, and with far more lucrative job offerings. That is a “successful” term in office. The public passively tolerates this and passively hopes for something better. In the meantime, the collective frog continues to boil. Wishful hoping and thinking only fuels and entrenches the abuse. With Biden, we got a happy face on the continuing insanity while the public’s protests died away in deference to the “rational grown ups” who were now in charge. Now we are hurtling toward a nuclear war based on the egotistic narcissism of the current regime. It seems each iteration of this dance becomes ever more desperate and irrational with ever graver consequences. Greed and lust for power are never satiated by having more. More just causes the fire to burn bigger and faster while passive acceptance only enables it. Apparently, asking politely for sensible, fundamental change doesn’t help because the political elite and their cheerleaders simply do not care. What they are willing to do, if at all, is only enough to keep the frog boiling.

  11. Riva Enteen
    January 17, 2023 at 09:45

    It would be a more humane world if the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights were enforced. Is a right, a right, if not enforced?

    • D H Fabian
      January 17, 2023 at 13:35

      Yes! Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt played a key role in formulating this international human rights agreement, which today’s US ignores.

  12. James White
    January 17, 2023 at 07:37

    “reducing the number and salaries of civil servants,” Hard to think of a better way to begin needed reforms in the Washington DC bureaucracy than “reducing the number and salaries of civil servants.” Some, though not all of these civil servants are central to the problems that lead to a need for “Austerity.” 40% of the Federal Government could be dissolved without anyone ever noticing any difference in productive performance and delivery of services. Instead, we are offered the following: The Biden administration released its budget request for fiscal year 2023 on March 28, 2022, calling for $5.8 trillion in federal spending and a $1.2 trillion deficit.
    The president’s budget includes $1.6 trillion in discretionary spending, funding boosts for nearly every agency, and tax hikes for corporations and wealthy households. More of the same deficit spending that has left us with a $31 Trillion national debt. It’s the spending that matters. It keeps us perpetually in a perilous fiscal state. Nancy Pelosi and Biden already spent all of the ‘funding’ that the author advocates for. No one lifted a finger to stop it.

    • D H Fabian
      January 17, 2023 at 13:39

      Millions are left jobless, basic poverty relief had been ended, and tens of billions more dollars are going to Zelensky in 2023.

    • Onward
      January 17, 2023 at 23:31

      Have not time to reply in full: Read Stephanie Kelton’s book ‘The Deficit Myth’. Maligned by the status quo Milton Friedman neocons which should indicate how important and accurate Kelton is.
      Not all Friedman’s pronouncements were astray but many were and his legacy has much to answer for; a new generation of economists will a-test to that, Jeffrey Sachs and Steve Keen just two.
      Inform your selves. Not only the main stream misinforms on economic matters, its endemic because you have probably guessed it, it makes the corporations and wealthy even more wealthy, the upshot which, is WEF and the elite wanting to control everything, present facism.

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