Work after coronavirus: how will it change when the lockdown is over? Guardian Australia, May 7 2020, Paul Daley
Loss of livelihoods threatens setback for humanity
“As Australia surveys the labour market wreckage of almost two months of pandemic-inspired physical isolation, several orthodoxies have emerged about the way we will work when the restrictions are eventually lifted.
One, based partly on a history that illustrates many jobs lost in big downturns never reappear, is that Australia faces entrenched unemployment upwards of 10% for at least half a decade. Another is that some sort of “new normal” will emerge whereby vast sections of workers will continue to carry out employment from home.
Nobody can accurately predict how many people will become long-term unemployed. But already evident is that many thousands of businesses – in retail, hospitality, transport, manufacturing, financial services, marketing and advertising, to name a few sectors – will never operate profitably again. Many will die. And thousands of people employed by them – largely those with no capacity for home work – will not possess skills or experience to be employed in the post-pandemic economy.”
Through the WI Lens
What is the future of work? That’s one of the biggest questions left hanging in the air as a result of Covid-19, and it’s one that has enormous repercussions for people’s wellbeing. This piece estimates that only 30 per cent of Australians will be able to work effectively from home in future and asks what will happen to the remaining 70 per cent, who risk either working in an unsafe environment or losing their employment altogether. Many small business owners, it reports, see no possibility of resuming their business on a profitable basis, and are considering throwing in the towel. And while there are some clear benefits to employers in terms of cost savings from having their workers based at home, those employees risk the feelings of isolation and lack of motivation that come with the territory. As the world slowly starts to accommodate to life after lockdown, these questions will be put to the test. Sectors like hospitality will soon discover if there is a viable future in which social distancing still plays a key part, and for some areas such as theatre and live music, any form of re-opening still looks an elusive pipedream. Even those who can work from home face a new form of insecurity; as one prominent US lawyer pointed out, once employers realise that a job can be done from anywhere it may be outsourced to a much lower wage economy. Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”