Friday, 3 September 2021 was characterized by the eyes of the nation glued to their TV screens at 1900hrs for the President’s update following the imposition of more strict regulations to combat Covid-19 three weeks ago. There were a few take-aways from the address, being; the relaxation of Covid-19 regulations which includes the resumption of the sale of alcohol (YaY) and the news that the State of Public Emergency (‘SOE’) which is on its 18th month.
As many rejoiced, especially that we are free to imbibe as we please and the ‘faux-dry’ season had come to an end. As for the ‘plugs’, for them the run was good while it lasted. With the lifting of the SOE coinciding with the country’s Independence Day, one would be tempted to make the more cliché joke attaching to the coincidence. I am tempted but I shall restrain myself and leave that privilege to you.
I, however, hate to be the bearer of bad news. With the SOE coming to an end, it means that things are going to get worse before they get any better. This is not an alarmist proclamation (I hope it was) but a realistic view of the doom and gloom that lingers in the horizon. We are about to witness a situation direr, methinks, than the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown that ushered in a global recession.
What am I on about? Let me put it out there for you. Our economy is in tatter and the SOE has been glossing over how dire the situation really is. You might be thinking, I have heard of people being forced into unpaid leaves and reduced pay so what could be worse. Well, the R word is looming high and large like a father’s sins over the lives of innocent children. We are going to witness a huge rise in job losses and the already conservative unemployment rate is about to get worse. Here is the kicker, there is nothing we can do about it because there is no plan in place to deal with the hell that beckons. Go to the World Economic Forum website and listen to our President give an answer during a panel discussion on how his government intends to deal with the question of unemployment. The answer offers no comfort.
Remember the buzz phrase for the entire SOE? “Working From Home” that’s the phrase. I am afraid to tell you that in reality we have overly romanticized this phenomenon. Not only does it spell doom to the traditional work concept, it begets hell for the working man. Those in the banking industry would attest to the fact that the financial sector has moved to automising some of their services with Robots and algorithms replacing flesh and blood. What this means is lower labour costs and presumed increased productivity and higher profits are realized. The substitution of man with technology means that there are fewer jobs out there adding to the currently dire joblessness situation.
There is another part of this new phenomenon that has been termed ‘the uberisation of work’. Traditionally, the risk of production costs has always been on the side of the employer. However, this new platform-based revolution of the work place transfers the risk to the worker. The worker has to pay for the tools of production in order to enter the work space and the owners of capital go smiling all the way to the bank. That is why investors love business models like Uber, Lyft, Air-BNB and the like. It’s a guaranteed win for them as the worker bares all the costs of production so to speak. The notion of self-employment is a con by the system. What this means is that you are going to, eventually, lose all the employee protections that you currently enjoy as you would unknowingly transition into the Independent Contractor status. What that means is that all the privileges and rights you currently enjoy are going to fly out of the window.
As the world of work changes, new types of jobs requiring more technical expertise would come to the fore but they won’t come in the same volume as what currently prevails. Technology is going, as a matter of fact, disenfranchise the already disenfranchised member of our communities. Inequality which is already high will soar even higher.
We, my friends, are headed into an economic disaster that as a country we are ill prepared for. It is going to get worse, way worse than I posit here before it gets better. To quote the English Rap star Dave “We’re all alone in this together”.