Viruses can be lethal. We always knew that. What we didn’t know (or didn’t realize, at any rate) is how they can change our lives, irreversibly.
Needless to add, we more than know that now.
Covid-19 has altered the way we live, learn and work. Office centricity now seems like an antiquated concept, as people work from home and fire up Zoom to connect. It took a pandemic to make remote working the new normal, when we had the tools to do it all this time.
Technology is the name of the game, and businesses that are ready to ‘pivot and persist’ will certainly ‘survive and thrive’. The biggest companies in the world, including Face book, Google, Uber and Twitter are embracing greater flexibility when it comes to offering opportunities to remote workers all over the world.
“The technology side has been relatively straightforward,” says Dr Joseph Sweeney – IBRS advisor and future of work expert at IBRS, an Australian research company, . “When COVID-19 came and everyone had to start working from home, Microsoft Teams was an obvious and natural tool to push out. It was already there, and the environment is familiar to anyone using Microsoft Office 365. It skyrocketed.”
Having said that, while thousands of businesses have embraces remote tools and working, it’s not been the same across industry. There are some sectors that have been largely dependent on manual labour, and are thus miles away from automation. Also, the absence of machine learning has left the manufacturing industry at a loss to manage rapidly shifting supply chains.
According to statistics released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 436 billion enterprises are operating in the hardest-hit economic sectors. There are 232 million in wholesale and retail, 111 million in manufacturing, 51 million in accommodation and food services, and 42 million in real estate and other business activities.
Employability in the Information Technology (IT) sector has taken a hit, with thousands of losing their jobs across the globe, on grounds of no projects in an uncertain environment. Downsizing in the industry has happened in the last few years, but the Covid crisis has brought about newer challenges, forcing organizations to cut costs and send people home.
International Business Machines (IBM), for instance, has laid off over 2,000 employees globally, as the company looks to reshape its business. Accenture is also cutting down 900 jobs in the UK to reduce costs in the face of lower demand for its services, according to reports.
In India too, several IT companies, like HCL Technologies, Infosys, Wipro and Tata have announced performance-based cuts due to the uncertainty brought on by Covid-19. That said, post unlock, the sector seems to be recovering a little. As per the TimesJobs RecruiteX, IT, Telecom and BPO sectors saw a double-digit growth in July 2020.
As countries open up, hiring too seems to be picking up. However, it’s early to say what lies ahead, since the pandemic is far from over. A second wave and lockdown could stop the growth again.
Startups have always believed in utilising ‘crisis as an opportunity’ – the biggest evidence is that over half of all Fortune 500 companies were set up during a downturn. Further, over 50 unicorns were founded during the recessionary period following the Great Financial Crisis. Innovation is at the centre of startups, and they are attuned to drive economic recovery and create employment.
Although the crisis has spelt doom for industries all over the world, yet it presents significant opportunities for startups. Over 3.9 billion people were quarantined in 2020, as a result of which sectors dominated by technology have exponentially grown over this period. Statistics show that telework and video conference platforms, e-commerce and food delivery, gaming and ed-tech have experienced growth like never before! The employability in startups is higher than ever before, which is a relief for those entering the workforce.
As per research by McKinsey, recovery of this sector could take time until 2023, to reach pre-Covid levels. Travel restrictions across the world have disrupted the sector, and it’ll take a long, long time until people begin to go about their lives as earlier. The fear of contracting the Covid infection looms large over the minds of people, who are unwilling to take risks, even as hotels across the world are beginning to open up with enhanced safety protocols.
When it comes to India, job losses have marked the hospitality and tourism sector. In a statement released by the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India, “The hospitality and tourism sector accounts for 12.75% of employment, 5.56% of it is direct and 7.19% indirect. As we speak, the Indian hospitality and tourism industry is staring at a potential job loss of around 38 million, which is 70% of the total workforce, due to Covid-19.”
If there’s one sector that has contributed to the economic growth in the last few months, it is health care. As per a report titled ‘India’s New Opportunities – 2020’ by the All India Management Association, Boston Consulting Group and CII, over 40 million new jobs are predicted to be generated in the sector by 2020
Data released by ILO shows that high-income countries have both skilled health workers and largest health sectors relative to their population size. Norway has the largest health sector, employing 1,049 people per 10,000 population. Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland follow suit. In the low-income nations, it stands at 49 per 10,000 people, which is abysmally low but that also means there is greater potential for employment.
The situation is not the best, to state the obvious. Yet experts all over the world believe that this time presents a silver lining for industries to innovate and repurpose themselves. Technology will continue to play an important role, now or even in the post-pandemic phase. Upskilling is the need of the hour, which is why it is critical for employees to be agile and adapt to the ‘new normal’ and grab opportunities that come their way!