This is further proof that people are the heart of the economy.
Ironically, spending on products and services to help us cope with COVID – the thousands of test kits, masks, boxes of paracetamol and immunity boosters, oximeters and filtration systems in the world. air removed from store shelves – will be counted as a positive contribution to GDP figures. (Keep this in mind for the next release of GDP growth rates.)
Although test and trace isolation requirements limit people’s ability to move around, for many reducing their economic activity is a self-imposed change in behavior once they weigh the risks against things. that matter most to them.
Opponents of lockdowns have argued that lockdowns would be detrimental to mental health. What they were less willing to acknowledge was that the widespread circulation of the virus would also trigger anxiety, distress and emotional exhaustion.
Rising psychological distress and burnout among healthcare workers, abuse of staff by angry clients, and personal pressure on employers to keep their workers safe need to be addressed in the costs of “living with COVID”.
Obviously, we cannot live in confinement forever. But that doesn’t mean that our only alternative now is to “push” as if we were on some kind of gritty adventure trail.
While governments have no shortage of roadmaps “out” of the pandemic, any adventurer knows that it is not smart to go through an ordeal without a plan that realistically anticipates the dangers along the way and smartly prepare for it.
So what would a COVID economic resilience plan look like? Instead of subsidizing private home renovations through HomeBuilder or accelerating major infrastructure projects, an economic resilience plan would have the vision of directing construction and commercial resources towards the redevelopment of existing buildings and infrastructure for the COVID safety.
Schools, public spaces and public transport would be equipped with safer air ventilation systems, CO2 devices and wider entry and exit points. The government could subsidize companies to redevelop their premises in an equally innovative way.
An economic resilience plan would see an expansion of the support infrastructure needed to support the healthcare sector, including psychological support for healthcare workers and increased resources for hospital administration systems and logistics.
It would support the design and production of COVID mitigation innovations in the Australian market, such as the production of high quality masks and antigen tests, including those suitable for children. This would include expedited product approval processes that would otherwise see these innovations picked up overseas.
While investment in tutoring has been excellent so far, a resilience plan would see additional investment in teaching and learning professionals and resources as the education sector strives to helping students catch up on the skill development they missed and guarding against workforce attrition.
It would provide data-driven advice to job seekers on the skills most economically needed in the future – health care, elderly care and mental health – and invest in their retraining and career transitions .
Crucially, an economic resilience plan would understand that acting on health expertise and spending on COVID resilience is an investment in the health of Australians. And ultimately, a measure of reducing costs and increasing productivity for the entire economy. Australia would be in better shape now if such a plan was already in place. But this pandemic is not over, and it’s not too late to implement one.
Leonora Risse is a lecturer in economics at RMIT University. She is a Fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University and National Chair of the Women in Economics Network.
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