Covid-19 gave us a glimpse of a less work-driven society, but it will take determination to avoid a return to the old normal
Coronavirus has been devastating for those who fell sick or lost loved ones. The restrictions imposed on everyday life to check its spread have been particularly difficult for people living in cramped accommodation, those juggling childcare and work, and those who have lost their jobs. But despite these huge losses, the pandemic has allowed us to glimpse what a different economy and pace of life might look like – one that is slower, more sustainable and less fixated on growth and consumption. A YouGov poll at the end of June found 31% of people now want to see “big” changes in the economy, three quarters want the choice to work more at home, and only 6% favour a return to a pre-Covid economy.
At the height of the coronavirus crisis in June, some 7.5 million people were temporarily unemployed – the largest quarterly decrease (18.4%) in total weekly hours since records began in 1971. Through the furlough scheme, the state made the unprecedented decision to pay the wages to those out of work. Those who were lucky worked from home and took mortgage holidays. Of course, this didn’t apply equally: many frontline workers had no other option but to go into their workplaces and put their lives at risk.