The Post-COVID Job Market: Machines Don’t Get Sick

By Nataly Kehyayan, Staff Writer

Job markets all over the world have been hit hard by the pandemic. While some countries have handled it better than others, with quicker recovery rates, other countries are still trying to get back on track. Moody’s Analytics, a financial services company, has provided economic research indicating that it could take up to 4 years to recover 22 million-plus of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic in the US alone. In Canada, almost 2 million people are unemployed and 400,000 are working fewer hours than they used to.

It is very likely that the post-COVID-19 job market will bring about many changes, like automation, a lot faster than previously anticipated. 

Post-COVID Automation

Unsurprisingly, automation is likely to rapidly accelerate in the upcoming years. Many industries were already incorporating new forms of technologies into their businesses to automate their tasks, and the pandemic is likely to speed up and intensify the process. In 2012, Canadian companies invested $52 million into artificial intelligence. Just last year, prior to the pandemic acting as an additional catalyst, that number was up by a staggering 1165.38%, or $658 million. 

Back in October, CNN reported that “The pandemic is speeding up automation, and 85 million jobs are on the line”. According to the article, the World Economic Forum predicts that globally, recovery trends will be very uneven unless some preventative measures are taken. More than 40% of employees surveyed by the WEF will reduce their workforce by implementing new technologies. According to Deloitte, 50% of all jobs are subject to automation in the next few decades and the majority of workers who are still employed will need to develop and learn new skills to work alongside these technologies. 

Workers that have been affected the most by this pandemic are those who work in industries that are predominantly female and comprised of younger, lower-income individuals. The World Bank estimates that the pandemic could push up to 115 million people into extreme poverty, this year alone. Moreover, these workers may find it harder to find new jobs as they do not possess many transferable skills that will not now be automated.

The highest rates of unemployment are seen in industries like leisure and hospitality (16.3%), mining (13.8%), other service sectors (8.3%) , and transportation (7.9%). Economist Marcela Escobari warns that although the economy will eventually add more jobs as the situation improves, “the rebound won’t help the people that have been hurt the most”. 

Future Employee Expectations

Another anticipated change is the importance of insurance and benefits to job seekers. Employees are now more likely to expect certainty and security as a priority as the people who did not have those perks guaranteed to them struggled the most during the recent crisis. Some aspects of HR that now carry more importance than ever are as follows: Training and skills development, better sick leave policies and child care for the parents of remote-learners. 

Both employees and employers will have to reinvent the workplace and what they each can offer to adapt. 

The lesson that most businesses will extract from this pandemic is that reliance on human labour and knowledge is a risky and costly position to be in. Employers are likely to increase investment into automated solutions to protect themselves from these vulnerabilities which will, in turn, cost many their jobs and sense of security. However, it is not all bad news. Major market shifts tend to create new jobs that previously did not exist. While machines will take away many of our jobs, they will generate more than 97 million new ones.

Photo by sol, Unsplash

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