How did the pandemic change the paid work model? OP-ED by Ala Tocarciuc

By developing new models of paid work, we can ensure the development of the economy and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. In addition, we can eliminate some community grievances and long-term social inequality, caused by low labor productivity. .."

It's been almost eight months since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Hundreds of millions of people have lived a quarantine for the first time in their lives.

Those who work have gone through one of the most complicated experiments. Millions of people have been left without jobs, many have switched to work at home. At a fast pace, the traditional working hours were changed from 9 a.m.  to 5 p.m. and replaced with a hybrid work model. For many companies this process is already irreversible. Some employees only work from home, others only in the office, and there are those who combine both.

It is estimated that around 500 million jobs globally were closed during this period. The economic shock caused by the pandemic makes some questions about the development of the economy even more acute.

The future seems uncertain. We do not know when and if our societies will return to normal. Or what kind of normal that will be. We don't know what scars the pandemic will leave.

Paid work model – part of the life model

We are all used to a life model and a work model. We go to work every day, we get a monthly salary, we also have social breakdowns, medical insurance, an annual holiday and a retirement pension. These models have replaced the models of our Grannies, who worked and fed exclusively from agricultural households. Periods of evolution were defined as industrial revolutions, in which paid labor patterns were developed.

The pandemic altered life and work patterns but did not change their main features.

Building on the above, the sustainable future of paid work would have three main features.

First, people receive adequate compensation for their work - not only in terms of monthly salary, but also retirement savings, healthcare coverage, etc.

Secondly, the world of work must address long-term aspects of the under-representation of minority groups, such as people with disabilities.

Finally, companies must contribute to improving productivity growth, which was weak long before the pandemic and is a fundamental source of Community discontent.

Paid work has been, is and will remain a source of society's well-being, but also a source of social inequality. The sustainable future of the economy depends on the sustainable future of paid work.

What is the sustainable future of paid work?

Paid work will remain present in companies, mainly in hybrid models.

No major changes are foreseen for those who remain to work on a stable schedule in the office.

Substantial changes await those who do not want to return to offices but prefer to work from home. Work from home also includes unpaid work, in the case of the presence of children and in the case of large families. What is the balance between paid and unpaid work? And how is this unpaid work redistributed among family members? These are just some of the key unanswered questions at this stage.

Descendants of the former USSR also remember the years of break-up and the transfer from paid and well-organized work to a model of life with partially paid work, sometimes unpaid or paid with daily wage. We can say that we will now repeat some of those experiences of transforming the process of collective and organized work into individual work, called freelance – or free work.

The phenomenon of "freelancer" had already appeared for some time in Moldova but was not a dominant one. Day labor in agriculture would be a freelancer work model. These workers have a daily income, but do not in all cases have health insurance and retirement savings. I don't know if we have enough regulations for this model of paid work in our country... It is an opportune time to think about them in pandemic conditions.

The pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of many areas. Trade has passed online, creating many new paid jobs. Some companies are still reluctant to digitalize everything. Can it go back to previous patterns of trade, human interaction, emotions and communication, an important part of human coexistence?

Artificial intelligence is still not enough to fully cover all the functions of a human. A robot covers only a specific set of technical functions. That has led in many industries to substitute the human factor for the technological factor. Not in our country yet.

Transformation of work processes has also changed the requirements for company leaders. If a lot of technical knowledge was required from a leader before, now more empathy and human qualities are required. People work remotely, create added value, but they need not only adequate remuneration, but also positive social interactions. The technical part can be compensated by a robot. The human side can only be compensated by a man endowed with developed human qualities.

What can we expect in the near future?

The evolution of the pandemic is already shaping up in the near future. Many countries have tried to avoid new lockdowns, but without success.

We will live intermittently, in times of quarantine and severe restrictions, followed by periods of relative relaxation. This model of pandemic cohabitation will also determine the patterns of paid work for the next two to three years.

Those waiting for a return to normal would better understand that we're not going back to that normal old model. It will no longer exist under any circumstances.

We will be forced to build new models of paid work, with or without new technologies, models of work in virtual or mixed spaces and in all these models will be present man. The pandemic and the economy would be two key areas where new models of paid work would have the most visible impact for the community.

By developing new models of paid work, we can ensure the development of the economy and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. In addition, we can eliminate some community grievances and long-term social inequality, caused by low labor productivity.

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