A somewhat similar case

Many people are not at work ( in lockdown) but some still are: health workers, basic transportation and utility workers,  farmers, food providers. So the percentage off work is not 100%: maybe 80%?

I found a different, somewhat analogous case where an entire nation had about 50% of its workers missing for a month.   Can you guess where this economic disaster occurred?

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96 Responses to A somewhat similar case

  1. Josh says:

    France July 2019?

  2. jorad says:

    Summer vacation in Scandinavia every year?

  3. mrwiizrd says:

    Collapse of the soviet union?

  4. epoch says:

    I am pretty much in lockdown but continue to work. It’s far from ideal but also I can skip bloody meetings on a massive scale and actually get more work done.

    This all by strictly adhering to the “better ask for forgiveness than permission” principle.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hmm. The May 1968 French general strike only lasted 2 weeks. Iceland did it twice recently (women nationwide struck for equal pay, much the country went to Russia to support their World Cup team) but I don’t think either of those lasted a month.

    Another hint?

  6. peter connor says:

    The US during WW2?! But I don’t buy these numbers..my kids are working remotely in IT, for example, and many (most?) academics have jobs where they can work from home for some period of time….

    • NobodyExpectsThe... says:

      Come on… The US was in WWII just for a month? And the US didnt draft anything even close to half the workers.

  7. R. says:

    Israel during one of its bigger wars?

  8. Eponymous says:

    Is it really as high as 80% not working?

    My wife is working (she’s a doctor). I can work from home, as can all my colleagues. Several of my friends too. My daughters’ daycare is still open. Guy who cuts my grass is working. Hear other people working around the neighborhood too.

  9. Boswald Bollocksworth says:

    Cyprus during the Turkish invasion

  10. Jim O’Sullivan says:

    I, for one, can’t figure out which country you mean. I look forward to your further comments on this thread.

  11. Jakub says:

    Everywhere in the Western world prior to the so-called emancipation of wamin.

  12. DataExplorer says:


  13. Ledford Ledford says:

    Israel in one of the wars?

  14. utk9nh4z says:

    Chinese New Year.

  15. TweetWivMe says:

    France has the juilletistes dissapear each July and the aoûtiens disappear each August but some work through the summer so I’m not sure if either horde makes 50%.

    • Frau Katze says:

      I remember reading about a severe heat wave that occurred in France one summer vacation.

      A whole bunch of old people died. They had no kids? Kids were on vacation and didn’t care? Social workers didn’t exist?

      • gcochran9 says:

        Nobody saw it coming: Paris had never gotten that hot before in recorded history.

        • gothamette says:

          Why does CA have so few cases compared to NY? Luck? Less Chinese going to and from? The luck of the Chinese?

          (NYC’s hardest hit neighborhood, Elmhurst, has a large Chinese enclave. Also full of ‘undocumented’ – they are flooding a public hospital that serves their catchment area.)

          • Pincher Martin says:

            Why does CA have so few cases compared to NY?

            Density. Widespread reliance on public transportation. And the mayor of the largest and most dense city in America telling his citizens that coronavirus was no big deal. Just fifteen days ago, for example, De Blasio was still saying he would keep the public schools open.

            I can’t stand California’s leaders, but compared to the leadership in most states they’ve been out in front in their response to this.

            • gothamette says:

              I’ve been saying density is a huge factor.

              Dumb Blasio is a dunce. A dangerous dunce.

            • DevOps Dad says:

              “Density. Widespread reliance on public transportation.”

              SF has almost 900,000 people and does depend heavily on public transit.

              Japan is much more interesting. The Japanese flu season was normal toward the end of the year, then, as publicity spread in mid-January about the viral outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan and cases started emerging in Japan, the number of flu patients suddenly declined and has remained low.
              Minako Ohashi, a family doctor said, “I believe the coronavirus affected it in a good way, because people have become more careful about washing hands and wearing masks,”

              Tokyo has 38 million people in its metro area and is also dependent on public transportation, The Japanese also have, on average, the oldest population in the world.
              (Italy has the second oldest) Restaurants, cafes, and hair salons are open and people are not required to stay at home. However, ~30% of the Japanese population do wear masks in public and their schools are shut down,

              Perhaps the Japanese culture makes them immunological supermen.

              • Frau Katze says:

                They seemed to have a cultural trait designed for this. I’ve seen photos of Japan with people wearing masks long before this. Also: Used cars won’t sell in Japan.

                Maybe the proximity to China? Quite a few other flus started in China.

                Also density of course.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Japan’s government effectively bans used cars.

  16. The G_man says:

    I don’t get it. During these examples, people weren’t working, but they were getting paid. Maybe the point is that, strictly speaking, 10s of millions of unemployed is more of a sociopolitical problem than an economic problem. Granted (assuming we really are talking about only a few months), but sociopolitical problems are problems too. Sometimes pretty big problems.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Ferragosto, Italy every August

  18. Torn and Frayed says:

    Israel during the Yom Kippur War?

  19. Reader506 says:

    People who can work remotely are also still working. That includes many people who work for financial institutions, law firms, and universities. Many research labs are shut down, but work is still being done (writing, computational analysis and software development, etc.).

  20. Space Ghost says:


  21. David S Moelling says:

    Here in Connecticut it is largely the retail business and restaurants that are not working. I’m an essential business (as are liquor stores) so I figure 80% working. But that won’t last long if travel and other spending stays down. I did a quick literature survey (I’m a nuclear engineer but I do know modeling and statistics) on the effectiveness of social distancing. Interestingly for high Ro values if the restrictions are not done very soon after the first appearance of the virus they are not very effective. The only advantage is they can be done if no pharmaceutical actions are available.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Yes, just heard that here in Canada, liquor store and pot stores (it’s legal here now) are to stay open. Well an alcoholic might get the DTs. I suppose there even more who function only with some help. I’m not criticizing them, it’s bad times.

      • Thersites says:

        Yeah, right now is really not a good time to have all the alkies checking into the hospital at once seeing pink elephants.

  22. Deckin says:

    In this case, were commercial landlords also not asking for rent payments on the first of the month? Were commercial creditors waving payments and interest accruals for that month? Was this, as others have suggested, a regular occurrence that could be planned for, or did they hear it on a Monday afternoon that their businesses would have to close at 9pm that night ‘for the foreseeabIe future’? I imagine lots of small business owners who don’t think of their livelihoods or life’s savings as ‘inessential’ and whose income streams don’t come from click through agreements but actual people walking through actual doors would like to hear how that went.

  23. Matt says:

    Some general strike somewhere, in Europe probably.

  24. Reader506 says:

    After WW2 women stayed home after being in the workforce during the war.

  25. mapman says:

    Like others, my first thought was a vacation time in some European country. Lots of candidates, I think. OK, is it something more interesting?

  26. Anonymous says:

    50% makes me think of a situation where essentially all men are mobilized for a military purpose. One (or more) of Israel’s wars is my best guess.

    Imo one of the big problems here is our primitive psychology, namely our instinctive disdain for anyone we perceive as a shirker. In WW2 a lot of the men were fighting, the women and 4-Fs went to the factories, the kids collected scrap metal…everybody was doing something. Here we have a situation where a percentage of the population is working overtime and the remainder are staying home*. There’s going to be resentment of those at home by those still working, and we may see a too-early push to get people back into the workplace motivated (in part) by resentment/jealousy and a desire to punish the “freeloaders.”

    *I’m not convinced that telecommuting actually means less work (for example, an academic told me that in her experience online teaching actually means more work), but a lot of people reflexively associate staying at home with not working.

    • j says:

      Teaching through Zoom (internet) doubles the teacher’s workload, in my experience. We are social animals, cannot function well without actual presence of others. Need the stimulus of real contact. Internet courses have been available for years but did not catch on. I may be wrong.

  27. Anon says:

    Lysistrata was a work of fiction though !

  28. jbbigf says:

    Rape of the Sabine women?

  29. ghazisiz says:

    This might be Sweden in July.

  30. Mark says:

    Greg. Everything I’ve read says it’s not the virus that makes you really ill/kills you, it’s actually an over the top immune response that some people get. If that’s the case surely there must be drugs out there already that dampen the immune system that could be used to treat the seriously ill?

    • Anon says:

      Chloroquine does that, I took it for over a year for autoimmune difficulties and as luck would have it I threw out an unfinished bottle last fall. Rheumatic sufferers of certain types are prescribed it.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Actually, this virus doesn’t do this. Young people are far less affected than the elderly.

      Check “hanta virus four corners” for an example of a virus that did attack the healthy young. The 1918 influenza also did this.

      In these cases, the immune response did kill them, as far as I understand.

        • Frau Katze says:

          There have been thousands of cases by now. None show a spike in young people, that you can readily see in graphs of the 1918 pandemic. (I’m reading a book on the 1918 flu).

          There is enough data from outside China by now that it can’t be blamed on their inaccurate data. I take a look at the link.

        • Frau Katze says:

          I don’t see her saying Covid-19 causes a bad reaction in young people. That link is discussing a number of different respiratory illnesses, some of which may have such a spike. You see references to “cytokine storms” with these cases where the immune system overreacts. Coved-19 doesn’t cause them.

          • Mark says:

            “I don’t see her saying Covid-19 causes a bad reaction in young people. ” That’s why it doesn’t kill young people!

      • Anon says:

        Hi – From the Lancet Mar 16

        “Accumulating evidence suggests that a subgroup of patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome. We recommend identification and treatment of hyperinflammation using existing, approved therapies with proven safety profiles to address the immediate need to reduce the rising mortality.”


        Unless you came across some medical testimony that refutes the notion of an immmune over-reaction, I suggest that you might be subscribing to an assumption that old people have “weak” immune systems and the young have “strong” ones. I think it’s more a question of “functionality”. jmo

        • Frau Katze says:

          “Accumulating evidence suggests that a subgroup of patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome”

          “might” but there are no examples. It must be rather uncommon or there would something a little more solid that this. Like some data?

          It does not affect me personally. I am unambiguously in the “old person” category. I have been told repeatedly that I am at risk solely due to age. No statistics I have seen contradict this.

        • Frau Katze says:

          From CDC, March 26, 2020:

          What is already known about this topic?

          Early data from China suggest that a majority of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths have occurred among adults aged ≥60 years and among persons with serious underlying health conditions.

          What is added by this report?

          This first preliminary description of outcomes among patients with COVID-19 in the United States indicates that fatality was highest in persons aged ≥85, ranging from 10% to 27%, followed by 3% to 11% among persons aged 65–84 years, 1% to 3% among persons aged 55-64 years, <1% among persons aged 20–54 years, and no fatalities among persons aged ≤19 years.

          What are the implications for public health practice?

          COVID-19 can result in severe disease, including hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit, and death, especially among older adults. Everyone can take actions, such as social distancing, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect older adults from severe illness.


        • Frau Katze says:

          Maybe we are all wrong about everything!

          Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?
          Current estimates about the Covid-19 fatality rate may be too high by orders of magnitude

          • mapman says:

            Yep, ICUs respiratory support capacity in many countries (and now in the NYC) gets overwhelmed on a regular basis. Nothing to see here! “This is one-tenth of the flu mortality rate of 0.1%”. Where do the morons writing this crap come from?

    • RW says:

      Glucosamine is an immuno-suppresant

  31. toomanymice says:

    I am guessing the 1998 tempete de verglas that shut down montreal and environs? I have a friend who lived there at the time and they described it as rather apocalyptic with everyone trapped in their homes.

    Husband is happily working from home but his job is mainly yakking on the phone conspiring against other people who yak on the phone. It’s hard to say who is genuinely out of work vs not in their work station.

  32. Anon says:

    Yeah the Ice Storm, I think you nailed it.

  33. j says:

    One situation that fits Greg’s parameters is the Depression in the USA. In the thirties 25% of the workers were unemployed, for some months it reached 50%, and of course women were not counted. Family income dropped 50%. The Depression lasted ten years.

    • j says:

      cont. Paradoxically, population health did not decline and indeed improved during the 4 years of the Great Depression, 1930–1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years in males, females, whites, and nonwhites.

      • toomanymice says:

        Calories deprivation (up to a certain point) increases life expectancy. Maybe it was that?

        • TB says:

          Drop in medical care? Given our host’s well-known skepticism towards much of medical care, I wonder if he’d be surprised if a huge number of people suddenly being unable to afford doctor visits didn’t improve health stats.
          In fact, given how people are being told to avoid doctors and hospitals, might not we end this year with a net improvement? Particularly since all this isolation we are practicing should put a huge dent in flu deaths and all kinds of communicable diseases.

          • j says:

            Sitting alone or in family at home cannot be very healthy. And there is no food scarcity. People must be eating too much out of boredom.

            • toomanymice says:

              My kids are eating way more than they normally do.

              At school they get 30 minutes out of the day to eat whatever they remembered to pack from home.

              Now they have a fully stocked kitchen and a short order cook at their disposal every minute of the waking day.

              I predict an increase in national average BMI within a few months.

              • Frau Katze says:

                I actually think that for some people (me) the mere thought of a shortage, even if I rationally know it’s just panic buying seems to activate some part of the brain that says, “Well there are already shortages. You should be eating everything you can find for likely famine.” I listened to this advice that no doubt made sense at one time, but now I’m telling it to STFU.

              • toomanymice says:

                frau, that is one reason why poor people are more likely to be obese in the US. Food insecurity makes people overeat when food is available. Even a modest blip in food access can trigger people’s anxiety centers.

                TB good job! I’m trying to walk an hour a day and eat only two meals, instead of three.

              • gcochran9 says:

                ” Food insecurity” -> obesity? Nope.

              • toomanymice says:

                ‘Food insecurity ‘ can mean anything from not having food, to having uneven access to food, to having access only to food you dislike, but still plenty of food calorie wise. Imagine how you would feel if you never knew if you would be able to eat your 5 favorite foods ever again, but instead had to eat your 5 least favorite foods most of the time. Even a stoic person would have some issue.

                Food choices and overeating are all influenced by psychological state. Ask anyone who’s lost a ton of weight and they’ll tell you it’s mostly mental.

                Even a slight disruption in food access can trigger anxiety in some individuals, plus people tend to overeat when stressed. Thus we have the weird situation of fat poor and homeless people in america.

                I would go so far as to say that in the US, the vast majority of eating that takes place is emotionally based. The food industry knows this and has marketing trickery down to a science fighting for ‘stomach share.’

              • gcochran9 says:

                I already know what it’s like to never be able eat my five favorite foods ever again. BFD. Anyhow, the whole argument is utter crap.

              • toomanymice says:

                Really? I am sorry to hear that. Why did you need to eschew your favorite foods?
                For most people that would be quite difficult. Few people have the stoicism to simply not care about food.
                To what do you ascribe the obesity epidemic?

              • gcochran9 says:

                Eating too much, low physical activity, although there may be room for other causal factors.

            • TB says:

              Not personally. I’ve lost a few pounds. I eat a lot less when I am home. At work I eat all of whatever my spouse packs for me, and she packs a lot. At home I eat what I make except for one main meal she cooks. Down about 6 pounds.

              • TB says:

                I’m a nurse. I work with the morbidly obese daily. They eat. A lot. Many diabetics seem to be hungry pretty much all the time. People throw tantrums if they have to be NPO for a few hours. People simply eat too much food.

                Dieters lie (to themselves) about how much they eat. That salad. With the oil-based dressing. You think eating that salad is going to help you lose weight?

                I’m low thyroid. Sorry. Take your Synthroid. Now you are not low thyroid any more. Eat less. A lot less. Half what you do now.

  34. Philip Neal says:

    Britain, the Three Day Week, 13 December 1973 to early March 1974? Workers stayed at home for two fifths of the working week because of electricity rationing.

  35. RW says:

    Maybe India, during the riots and partition.

  36. Frau Katze says:

    Greg, aren’t you going to tell us the answer?

    • toomanymice says:

      frau, what other blogs do you frequent? I have PLTD (post lion trauma disorder)… lol. Nice to see you and gothamette here.

      • Frau Katze says:

        I sent a tweet to Lion telling him to restart and ban the bad commenters. I can’t think of any other way to reach him. Maybe if we send enough tweets? Maybe he’s just grown tired of blogging?

        Lion is too fussy. Look how he picked such a nice looking layout!

        Greg can’t be bothered about how the blog looks. I bet he’s using the default WordPress layout. All he needs to do is to keep an eye on the comments and ban stupid people where necessary.

        I don’t go to other blogs much,. I spend quite a bit of time on Youtube. I have tinnitus in one ear and I need a noise source.

        Try Tim Pool (also has a channel called Timcast) and Sargon of Akkad. Bret Weinstein and his wife did two good videos just in the past few days. (But Youtube commenting isn’t very good.)

        I’m also trying to finish a book on the 1918 pandemic.

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