Coronavirus: Most Jobs Will Not Return

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The pandemic and subsequent recovery will accelerate the ongoing digitalization and automation of work—trends that have eroded middle-skill jobs while increasing high-skill jobs during the last two decades and contributed to the stagnation of median wages and rising income inequality.Many low-wage, low-skill, in-person service jobs, especially those provided by small firms, will not return with the recovery.

Changes in demand, many of them accelerated by the economic dislocation wrought by the pandemic, will change the future composition of GDP. The share of services in the economy will continue to rise. But the share of in-person services will decline in retail, hospitality, travel, education, health care, and government as digitalization drives changes in the way these services are organized and delivered.

Many low-wage, low-skill, in-person service jobs, especially those provided by small firms, will not return with the eventual recovery. However, workers providing essential services such as policing, firefighting, health care, logistics, public transportation, and food will be in greater demand, creating new job opportunities and increasing the pressure to raise wages and improve benefits in these traditionally low-wage sectors. The downturn will accelerate the growth of nonstandard, precarious employment—part-time workers, gig workers, and workers with multiple employers—leading to new portable benefits systems that move with workers and broaden the definition of employer. New low-cost training programs, digitally delivered, will be required to provide the skills required in new jobs.

The sudden dependence of so many on the ability to work remotely reminds us that a significant and inclusive expansion of Wi-Fi, broadband, and other infrastructure will be necessary to enable the accelerating digitalization of economic activity.

— Foreign Policy

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