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Life In a Post-Coronavirus World

April 22, 2020
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As we start to discuss how to reopen the economy once COVID-19 infection rates decline, predictions are being made about the "new normal". Here in summary are "7 Predictions for a Post-Coronavirus World" as posted on marker.medium.com, with some comments.

1. Companies that traffic in digital services and e-commerce will make immediate and lasting gains.

People will want, and sometimes need, goods and services without physical contact. Social media traffic will soar, but advertising revenue will decrease until demand revives. The shift in buying habits will remain after the economy improves.

2. Remote work will become more common.

Employees working from home will appreciate a flexible schedule. Without the need to commute, they will have more available time. Technology will allow remote instead of in-person meetings. On the other side, companies will need less workspace and demand for commercial real estate will decrease. There will be less business travel and industries dependent on it will suffer. White collar workers will have more flexibility where to live, causing long-term population shifts.

3. Jobs will be automated or remote-capable.

Companies will become leaner, and less productive employees will be forced to retrain or restricted to low paying service jobs.(This could  create a social problem if long-term unemployment becomes chronic.) Companies may also move jobs overseas to find skilled workers at lower cost (this may be counterbalanced by another trend; see prediction #6).

4. Telemedicine will cause an explosion in medical technology innovation.

Once accustomed to telemedicine, patients will not want to go back to office visits. Doctors will have time for more patients. Increased spending will bring more products for testing and diagnostics, wearables and surveillance systems.

5. Higher education (and possibly lower schools) will move online.

Students forced out of in-person classes are calling for reimbursement of tuition and expenses. If higher leaning can function online for a fraction of in-person costs, students will re-evaluate the costs and benefits of a four year residential college. Universities will get less support from state and local governments, forcing them to cut costs and broaden access to increase revenues. (In my opinion, some of these trends will also affect elementary and high schools.)

6. Goods and people will move less freely across borders.

Countries will retreat into themselves. International trade will slump. Governments will encourage domestic manufacturing and supply chains (this will work against off-shoring in prediction #3). Multi-lateral governance institutions will weaken at least temporarily. Governments will not relinquish their emergency surveillance powers. Travel restrictions will cut demand and related industries will suffer.

7. Multi-lateral cooperation may resume.

Despite the previous prediction, countries may - and hopefully will - recognize that technological, and viral threats are existential and require international cooperation. Countries should develop international norms, monitoring and security systems, and coordinate response and contingency plans. A coordinated response will make it easier to control the next pandemic. 

None of these predictions are futuristic. Many are amplifications of trends predating the COVID-19 pandemic. One or more will affect most businesses. Insurers too must be prepared for changes.