Let's create tomorrows jobs, today
The pandemic is the biggest crisis the world has seen since World War II. It could potentially have the most devastating impact on jobs we have ever seen. While measures have been introduced to help those whose jobs have been impacted, these are in no way enough. We have only seen half-baked ideas and incomplete aid packages, with the abandonment of thousands of employees in the private sector.
Some 110,000 people employed in the private sector have fallen through the net and are not benefiting from the Covid Wage Supplement. Worryingly, there is a real danger that those most badly affected will be those who can least afford it, these being lower-wage earners and small enterprises.
How is the government going to address those who have not benefited from the funds? And even if it does, while quick stop-gap measures such as cash injections are vital in these times of crisis, they are not enough. Is anything being done to plan for the future? I am not sure about you, but I worry not enough is.
So with that in mind, let me give you some scope. The International Labour Organisation has forecast that the pandemic could reduce global working hours by nearly seven percent in the second quarter of 2020 (April till June) – that equates to 195 million full-time jobs. A McKinsey analysis has suggested that in regions as diverse as Europe, Africa, and the United States, up to a third of the workforce is at risk of reduced income, furloughs, or layoffs as a result of the crisis. Now apply the analysis to Malta: some simple Maths shows that out of a total of 252,000 employed, up to a whopping 84,000 could be negatively affected financially. Now we of course have to consider local dynamics, so the number of negatively affected in Malta will be significantly less, however, even half that amount will naturally, this will then negatively impact consumer spending, the economy overall, and so on.
Some may be misguided into thinking that we need to prepare to go back to the normal we were used to, but on no front, be it environmental, economic, political, sociocultural, technological, or legal, will we go back to how things were. We need to think differently, and fast, we simply cannot assume that just by opening back up business will simply go back to normal, a Transitional Recovery Plan needs to be formulated and implemented.
From a jobs perspective, the solution lies in identifying those sectors rendered high and low risk as a result of the virus. There will be companies that have lost employees and employees who have lost work. High-risk industries will certainly include tourism, retail, property, and hospitality, which will account for some of the highest numbers of job losses. While studies will reveal further such gaps, we can use this crisis to explore the establishment of a number of new markets. Some of these, of course, include really establishing a blockchain industry, as well as modernizing and digitizing our financial institutions so as to take a more fintech route and putting this sector back on the map whilst opening this up to new players, medical marijuana, renewable energy, as well as establishing us as a robust research and development hub.
All in all, this could go hand in hand with mapping talent pools made available due to the loss of work, to get a clear picture of what each effected individual is capable of. We can then start to explore smart, cross-sector solutions to proactively look into re-skilling programs to train those unemployed to fill new positions. We could now also be looking at creating real comprehensive student work programs, which would actually pay so that they can enter the workforce as a priority while also gaining valuable knowledge in their field of study. This will mean they will also be able to contribute to businesses that are very much recovering from this pandemic and the economic impacts it has left behind.
With so many businesses now having amped up remote working many will probably continue with this arrangement well into the future. The reasons are many but include financial benefits, reduction of office costs, impact on traffic, air quality, and, more importantly, people’s happiness. Therefore its safe to say businesses will seek to focus on remote work and ensuring businesses have the ability to go remote in the best possible way by potentially creating incubators could also help to secure success.
Now, these are just some possible solutions, but ultimately the pandemic has and will continue to change the world profoundly. Now is our opportunity to fix things, to learn from the shortcomings and mistakes of others, and to put a clear, green and innovative job recovery plan into action so out of this devastating time, we as a people can rise to new and even better heights.