Covid-19 has made sure the world looks at jobs with a merciless lens.
Many sectors that were premised on human touch are likely to lose out, while those running on technology may see ‘acchhe din’.
In short, a huge rewiring is on the cards.
Up to half of the world’s population has remained in lockdowns at some point in the last two months.
Most of the world has been mentally preparing itself for uncertainties around reopening of national economies and potential closing again in case the coronavirus cases rise.
Restricted physical movement may become a way of life and maybe, the new normal for months, or even permanently in the times to come.
This brings big step changes in what people can and can't do.
Many physical activities may not be possible for a long while. Entire sectors such as travel and hospitality have been brought to a standstill. This will lead to a big churn in the way business is conducted around the world.
Large organisations have already started implementing risk reduction strategies, and while more extreme steps are being kept to a minimum, it’s a rapidly evolving environment.
No one has a handle on where the bottom of this crisis will be, so chances that things will go worse from here in select sectors and functions will remain high.
Take US data as an indication. The applications for unemployment claims have gone up from 282,000 to nearly 30 million between February and April.
The number continues to rise. The impact on the overall job market, both blue and white, is going to be intense.
Fundamental shifts in job markets will happen going forward.
Firstly, working from home may become the new normal for many firms. This is possible in the knowledge economy – in the services sector.
Many firms around the world have already talked about never ever moving the entire workforce to the same physical location in its entirety.
This will need many individuals to rapidly re-skill on how to be more effective working remotely.
The whiplash effect on the commercial real estate market will be huge.
Secondly, there will be a conversion of services from offline to online.
The integration will need creation of new business models which do not need high touch.
This will bring a lot of businesses in industries like retail, hospitality and entertainment under pressure. Since these industries are also big employers in most countries, the governments will remain under pressure for a while to create some kind of a social safety net for ongoing job losses.
Thirdly, shared economy jobs – one of the biggest areas of growth world over in the last five years – will be under stress.
The concept of sharing space – food boxes in a bag, cabs – will become less attractive for most people.
This change will disrupt hitherto growing industries like financial services and auto in a second order impact.
Individuals plying own trades and vocations will have to invest time and effort in demonstrating that they are welcome inside houses and offices.
The Do-It-Yourself equipment market supporting basic vocational skills will become an area of opportunity.
Fourthly, technology adoption for jobs which conventionally need human touch will accelerate. Manufacturing, industrial activity and agriculture will all become even more mechanised. This will leave governments struggling to create new jobs at the lower end of the skills spectrum.
Fifthly, a lot of jobs may start becoming contractual in nature. With increasing uncertainties across the board for businesses, they may not want to commit to long-term jobs.
This will lead to social anxieties and vulnerabilities.
All these changes will lead governments towards measures like Universal Basic Income (UBI), the adoption of which may become less dogmatic.
Perhaps, central banks around the world will closely look at the helicopter money scenarios as propounded by the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).
The government may have to become a venture capitalist of sorts with risk taking ability within the industry receding.
Very importantly, what matters for social cohesion is that a sizeable chunk of people figure out what's important in life, and focus on real world problems that help enrich the lives of people around them at large.
This is the usual response of societies to serious national threats, post-World War 2 productivity boom, and a sharp rise in national sentiment post 9/11 being recent historical cues.
But if job market shifts lead to uncontrolled uncertainties, it may have adverse social effects.
Controlled globalisation is no longer a political agenda or a conspiracy theory, but a necessity to build resilience.
Many mission critical dependencies on trade partners need to be evaluated. Countries which promote bottoms-up innovation and rapidly enabling people to set up new digital organisations will become key to economic wellbeing and ecosystem resiliency.