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Opinion

The dark clouds and silver linings in a post-Covid-19 world

- May 1, 2020 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
It’s no secret the world has been turned upside down in the last two months.

Predictions about which industries will grow in the next five years have turned into musings about who can survive, let alone thrive, as governments the world over are continuing to try and grapple with the long-term ramifications of such a huge and sudden economic downturn.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Australian economy is projected to contract by 6.7% in 2020 amid the great lockdown.

And while the extent of the damage is still unknown, there are strong signs that COVID-19 will spell the end of some industries for good — and perhaps orchestrate the resurgence of others long thought extinct (at least in Australia).

Having worked in the financial services for close to two decades, I’ve been tracking financial markets and their trends for a long time. Then, through FlexCareers, I’ve been able to marry that knowledge with the lived experiences of workers from all walks of life as it affects the labour
market.

And while it’s no secret that the COVID-19 crisis has upended our entire economy, resulting in some of the worst conditions since the Great Depression, there are some unexpected resurgences and changes coming as we work to piece the world back together.

 

The good news

The industries that will do the best in a post-COVID-19 world include manufacturing, healthcare, infrastructure (particularly hospitals), insurance (people will realise they have risks they just didn’t consider and now will rush to insure against) new energy, technology and, of course, science.

I will be particularly interested to see how we structure the return of some manufacturing jobs to Australia. COVID-19 has taught us that complex offshore supply chains are a risk to business continuity, so I believe we will see a simplification in supply chains – which means local manufacturing jobs will be returning soon.

Not only will Australia look to secure production of basic medical supplies, which, as we learnt the hard way, are not always easily accessible and available (especially in a global crisis), but also materials such as steel for nation building projects and solar panels for our energy independence.

The healthcare industry, already projected by the Australian government to make the largest contribution to employment growth (increasing by 252,600), will become even more important as people who’ve lost their job or are on the brink of losing their jobs seek to reskill into more secure industries.

Professional education will also rise in prominence to facilitate the largest reallocation of labour since 1945. And no, I don’t mean the university sector (which will remain challenged in this new ‘closed-border’ world), but more healthcare and technology education providers that facilitate a transition towards the sorts of skills and role-types required in the future of work.

And more broadly, we’re going to see (bigger) governments of all levels becoming more larger and more desirable employers.

 

The challenging news

Unfortunately, for some industries this period of economic inactivity will sound the death knell.

Cruise ships, cinemas and some sporting organisations will either take the longest to recover, or disappear altogether.

The simple arithmetic will mean that there will be fewer employers around on the other side to employ the people who once had a job in sectors like hospitality and tourism.

Partly to do with being the last to be allowed to reopen and partly to do with the fact that social distancing is naught but impossible in all three cases, these ‘airconditioned industries’ that depend on a volume of people all being in a confined space at the same time will be in for the fight of their lives.

Business travel will also probably reduce as companies, forced to reckon with much lower budgets and profits, replace many inter-state and (down the track, global) meetings with no-cost online meetings.

Professional services, with some exceptions, will be severely affected as companies, large and small, look to reduce staff to, at least for the time being, a more sustainable level.

Universities will also be hit hard due to their reliance on open borders. Recent comments by Beijing to warn Chinese families against sending their children to Australian universities suggest a worst-case scenario for our tertiary education system, leading to $12b in lost revenue.

So the message in this as a jobseeker becomes simple. Look at your favourite industries, and target your job search to the sorts of industries that will fare better than others.

We’re in this together: let’s all pull together to get Australia through to the other side.

 

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