Labor market – a brave new world of work

Anna K. was a flight attendant. Now she’s going to be a nurse. The corona pandemic paralyzed entire industries and fundamentally shook the world of work in many areas. Two things are currently happening that will keep us busy even after the pandemic: On the one hand, certain sectors, such as the travel and tourism industries, have to be completely rethought. On the other hand there is digitization, the fourth industrial revolution. It started before Corona, but the pandemic has accelerated it tremendously.

The way we work has changed massively as a result of home office and teleworking. After a year in pandemic mode, many companies will probably rethink their return to office operations. If you look at figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in some countries some of the work was done from home even before the first lockdown. Over 55 percent of the employees surveyed in Sweden and Denmark stated that they used home office.

Since the first lockdown in the previous year, 1.5 million people in this country have been working entirely or temporarily at home. According to a recent OGM survey, 90 percent of those questioned have good experiences with it and some of them want to keep teleworking in the future. According to the OECD, the expansion of telework has the potential to improve productivity, work-life balance and even gender equality. At the same time, the OECD economists warn that working in isolation from home could hinder innovation. And: Companies have the opportunity to theoretically recruit skilled workers worldwide. However, this harbors the risk of wage dumping and wage pressure, especially in richer economies. In other words: the Indian programmer will probably do the job for less money than the programmer living in Sweden because of the lower wage level there.

The research institute Eco Austria looked at the effects of the home office on the gender pay gap. Austria has a high rate of part-time work among women and is the EU frontrunner. One should not overestimate the role of the home office in view of existing stereotypes and gender roles. However, the authors do see the potential of dividing home and paid work more equally between the two sexes. This happens, for example, when the woman continues to work in a system-maintaining job, such as a doctor or cashier, while the husband in the home office also has to supervise the homeschooling of the children.

One in ten jobs

Monika Köppl-Turyna, director of Eco Austria, describes two groups whose working methods could change in the long term through more home offices: “On the one hand, the highly qualified workforce, such as scientists, and on the other hand, the middle qualification level,” she says in an interview with the “Wiener Zeitung” “. The second group includes, for example, accountants or call center employees. It could be that in these areas more people will work from home in the future and employers will save costs for office space, internet and energy.

Not only the way we work and the workplace are changing, but also the fields of work. In a recent study, the US management consultant McKinsey reckons that one in ten US employees will have to reorient themselves professionally by 2030. The pandemic has reinforced existing trends and accelerated the loss of jobs in certain areas. According to the study authors, this eruption mainly affects women, minorities and less skilled workers.

In the next ten years, the demand for workers who work in the area of ​​office assistance as well as manufacturing and production is expected to decline by 17 and 6 percent respectively. At the same time, the authors of the study locate an increasing demand for workers in nursing (plus 36 percent), in medicine (plus 32 percent) and in technical and IT professions (plus 25 percent) by 2030. A much-discussed study from the year also came to similar conclusions 2013. The scientists Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne from Oxford University devote their research paper “The Future of Work” to the consequences of digitization for the labor market. What they found: of the 700 jobs analyzed in the USA, almost half are threatened with extinction.

Almost half a million without a job

The question of how many jobs will actually be lost and how many new, not yet known ones will be created, divides science. “I’m optimistic here, there will certainly be new jobs that we don’t know about today,” says Köppl-Turyna. Since Corona, however, it has been certain that many employees will have to reorient themselves. In Austria alone, almost half a million people are currently unemployed, and another 478,000 are on short-time work.

Those who work in tourism and gastronomy were hit particularly hard. It is unlikely that these areas will fully recover after the lockdown. Experts expect long-term consequences especially in the area of ​​travel, both for private and business trips. So what do you do with all those people who have lost their jobs in the course of the crisis and are not highly qualified?

Re-qualification necessary

It is utopian that all job seekers, some of whom are poorly qualified, can be retrained to become programmers. However, so-called horizontal retraining is increasingly taking place on the labor market. So, for example, from brick-and-mortar retail to online retail. Or from the flight attendant to the personal care worker. “The pandemic has accelerated the digitization and greening of society,” says Gernot Mitter, head of the labor market and integration department at the Vienna Chamber of Labor.

That is why the public sector must take sufficient resources for training and re-qualifications. As an example, he cites the expansion of renewable energy sources through the new Renewable Expansion Act (EAG). More electricians will be needed in the future who can dismantle oil heating systems and install and maintain photovoltaic systems. The federal government is currently providing the AMS with 700 million euros for training and retraining. Too little, thinks the Chamber of Labor. “We are of the opinion that an additional 500 million euros will be needed for qualification measures by 2024,” says Mitter.

Incidentally, the economists at McKinsey see another trend that has not yet been taken into account: the migration from large cities towards the countryside and smaller towns. There are first indications in the USA that the home office leads to a kind of de-gentrification. Because many skilled workers work from home, the financial districts of the big metropolises are empty.

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