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The Future of Work in the Post-COVID-19 World

Without employment providing a structure in people’s lives and with technology replacing many human activities, our societies will likely shift towards more individualistic entities with less human interaction.

The emergence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having dra­stic impacts on our lives in ways that no one would have been able to think just a few months ago. Nowadays, one of the large uncertainties is related to the economic impact of this pandemic. Many academics and experts are trying to draw a large number of ­potential scenarios for economic recovery. However, as the health crisis is not over, it seems quite too early to estimate reliable scenarios. What does look clear is that the global labour market will undergo very important changes, derived from the ­inertia to which it had previously been subjected, besides from the huge impact of the pandemic. The global labour market was already going through radical changes over the last few decades due to two main factors: (i) the process of indu­strial relocation in Western countries, and (ii) the so-called technological revolution. So, the real need right now is to evaluate how the COVID-19 crisis will ­affect this ongoing transformation.

The United States (US) is the great paradigm behind the ongoing technological revolution. In the mid-20th century, the states located in the centre of the country (also known as “flyover states”) based their economies on manufacturing tangible assets. In 1950, around 35% of Americans were working in the manufacturing sector, while in some of the “flyover states,” this rate was over 50% (Kozmetsky and Yue 2005). In the last 30 years, most of the American manufacturing industry have been outsourced to developing countries with more reduced costs, low labour protection, and minimal environmental regulations, among other advantages. Consequently, the services sector has come to dominate most of the national economy, accounting for 80% of the employment and 77% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 (World Bank 2019). From a geographical perspective, it has led to the agglomeration of people in cities and the reinforcement of urban economies. Cities concentrate most of the job opportunities and, consequently, people tend to migrate there. It also explains the increasing spatial ­polarisation between urban and rural areas in the US, although the same dynamics were replicated in the entire Western world. This is the starting point for a better understanding of most of the social and political dynamics that these countries are going through in the last few decades.

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Updated On : 4th Nov, 2020

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