We are currently in the throes of a global pandemic. At the time of writing (May 2020), there have been more than 4 million cases and 278,993 deaths globally. Entire countries have been placed in lockdown, and many countries have used the time to ramp up their ability to test, trace, isolate and care for patients.
Things sound bleak – but it’s not all bad. Despite the physical distance, people have been pulling together in a way that hasn’t been seen since war time in the 1940s. Many of us have had the time to return to doing activities we love, like gardening, spending time with our pets, and exercising outside.
There is also light on the horizon; according to the World Health Organization’s Director-General, there has been a great deal of success in slowing the virus and ultimately saving lives. However, such strong measures have come at a cost, and each country has already begun to see the serious socio-economic impact of the lockdowns, which have had a detrimental effect on many people’s lives and businesses.
There has been a lot of talk about a recession, and how long things will be bad for the world economically. But what can we actually expect?
The Economic Recovery Period
The Bank of England has warned that, for 2020 as a whole, the economy could shrink by 14%, marking the deepest recession for more than three centuries. While this is a decidedly grim depiction of Britain’s future, it’s a realistic and unavoidable one, given the circumstances.
The hope is that growth will rapidly recover next year, with the UK bouncing back faster than from the 2008 global financial crisis. Why? Because unlike past financial crises, this is one that has effected the world on a global scale, and people – whether they have been financially effected or not – have, for the most part, been forced to curb their usual spending habits. This is likely to cause “freedom spending”, where those who have been cooped up in lockdown are ready to spend extra money to enjoy themselves out in the world.
It’s also likely that there will be a spike in certain industries when the time comes to fully release lockdown – everyone will be eager to return to their social lives, and pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes and bars will see a huge increase in business, provided they survive the current climate. It’s also unlikely that we’ll see people fully return to life as it was before coronavirus, and new levels of hygiene will become the standard, and so new businesses will be born from that need.
Unfortunately, many small businesses have already had to close their doors, either for now or for good, and the businesses who will see the post-pandemic spike will be the ones that could afford to stay open. The British government has issued financial support for business owners and the self-employed, which will hopefully result in a better percentage of small businesses seeing themselves through six months of closure.
Collective Mental Health
There is a high chance that mental health services across the globe will see an increase in reports of negative states of mental health in the wake of this pandemic. It is highly likely that a lot of people will struggle to adjust to regular life, and may even begin to display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as is common in long lasting periods of stress.
Social anxiety, especially, will be a common problem, as those who have been in isolation for a long period of time become more aware of how they talk and act around others, or even become afraid of getting too close to other people.
There’s also a concern for those who are already diagnosed with OCD, especially when it has manifested due to a fear of germs and contamination, because the threat is no longer just perceived, but has been realised. It’s likely that those already diagnosed will struggle, and there will be a spike in OCD diagnoses in the years to come.
A Competitive Job Market
Britain’s furlough scheme has helped a huge number of people across the board, but it is said that those without university degrees will see bigger hits to their livelihoods. Only 27.2% of people in the UK have university degrees, and almost 80% of workers facing job insecurity – including pay cuts, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs – do not have a university degree. (If you’ve been considering income protection insurance, it’s a great time to protect yourself for the future.)
There is also a high level of anxiety for those in the events and entertainment, and travel industries respectively; a huge percentage of people in said industries rely entirely on being hired on a job-to-job basis, almost all of which lie in physical events. Musicians, actors, caterers, chefs, performance artists, waiters and event managers are all facing a risk of long-term job loss, possibly for a further 6-18 months, depending on the ripples coronavirus leaves behind.
So, How Quickly Can We Bounce Back?
Our lives in the UK have been deeply affected by Coronavirus and the deaths, illness, loss of job security, anxiety, and general change of everyday routine that it brought about. However, there are certainly some positives to have come out of this situation: the decrease in traffic across the UK has caused a notable decrease in pollutants. While it is still too early to say whether this will affect the number of annual deaths due to respiratory diseases, it is certain that air quality has started to improve in many UK cities.
Another positive point is that, for once, people are reassessing what truly matters, in their careers and personal lives. Many are taking this opportunity to plan for a career change or to finally take the plunge into starting a new business once we resurface.
If you look past the doom-and-gloom headlines, it is likely the British economy will bounce back fast for most people. While our savings may have been affected, we’ll have a greater appreciation for our lives and our loved ones, and for helping us see that home really is where the heart is.