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Post Covid-19: An Opinion Piece

Lessons and Direction for our Labour Market; Workplaces and Society in General.

Written by Glen Cormack, The Fairness Institute.

Part 1

Things are not always what they seem to be! Children not just eating a hearty meal but the reality of families reliant on donations from others because they are too poor to provide food for themselves. Not just policemen preventing queue jumpers, but citizens going through one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. Reinforcers ignoring or unable to address the need for social distancing and the use of masks by a population unaware of the risks of not doing so.

It is not just someone unhappy with the lockdown and the need for masks; but one of the tens of thousands of women and/or children that are abuse victims, locked in with their very perpetrators. It is not just ordinary news headlines but indicators of ghastly behaviour by some of the very officials meant to protect them. A further article on looming unemployment of additional millions of employees as the nation faces narrow-definition levels of 50% plus unemployment. It is not just community members working together happily, but a sign of the amazing caring of some of our people in one of the most unequal societies of the world.

There have been so many opinions and articles and even empirical research undertaken and written in the last six weeks since this opinion article was conceptualised, that I thought I will just be regurgitating what is already out there in the public domain. But, as a labour market practitioner, perhaps looking through the workplace prism presents insights not common to other articles. So here goes….

“Covid -19 will define the new normal!” How many commentators and leaders have said this? But will it? Or will it not just be getting back to business as usual for the economy; policy formulation; vested and powerful interests; political parties vying for membership amongst “the masses”; labour market dynamics and global market forces? Maybe with some tweaking of efficiencies (retrenchments), adjusting to changes in behaviours such as on-line business and education? With the realities of the rich and powerful stakeholders in the labour and economic markets getting more rich and powerful, and the poor poorer? Maybe with some mergers as more powerful companies take advantage of market forces, swallowing more vulnerable competitors.

What have we seen in South Africa – and its regional neighbours? It would be short-sightedness in the extreme to think that it has nothing to do with us here in SA what our neighbouring states are doing. Well, for one thing, it will not be business as usual for the additional millions of employees who have or will lose their jobs. It will not be for the hundreds of thousands of households that face hunger as the various government relief schemes run out of money.

It will not be for the thousands forced back into the rural areas when they lose the ability to survive and feed themselves and their families in the urban slums they occupy now. It will not be for the additional millions of youths that have their vital dreams of a better life thrown back in their faces. It will not be for the millions of refugees/migrants that flock from our neighbouring states under the false hope that “things will be better in SA” as their respective economies fail them.

To be continued in the next edition of GPS News.

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