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Will getting used to new roles spawn unemployment?

By XN Iraki | July 7th 2020 at 12:36:00 GMT +0300

The average weight of a golf bag together with clubs is about 10kg. By the time you finish your 18 holes, you will have walked about 10km.

This requires golfers to hire a caddy to carry their golf bag as they concentrate on playing the game.

Caddies have another purpose; they take blame for a bad game. The alternative is to carry the bag on a golf cart or on your back.

The beauty about caddies is that they help you spot the ball which can land anywhere on the golf course, sometimes in the bush. A lost ball attracts penalty.

With Covid-19, golfers have been left on their own.

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They carry the golf bag and spot their own balls without caddies. With no caddies and the number of golfers reduced to three or two in a team to reduce crowding, there are “fewer eyes” to spot the ball. Without caddies, we have found the golf bag is not that heavy and our eye sights not that poor.

Does that mean that once Covid-19 goes or is managed, caddies will no longer be needed, or fewer of them will be needed?

It is possible that the caddy fee will go down as the demand goes down.

The fact that the economic slowdown could reduce the number of golfers, may further reduce the demand for caddies. Unless golf is exempted from the laws of economics.

Quietly, Covid-19 has turned the country into a do it yourself (DIY) nation.

It’s not just caddying, we have learnt to live without a house help, we can take care of the baby, we can farm, we can landscape, clean our house, repair it and do a lot of other things we thought were impossible.

Some might argue the period was too short to get used to DIY, but the freedom, fun and the savings might tempt many of us to continue with DIY.

Think of golfers cracking any joke or discussing deals without waiting for the 19th hole, without worrying about caddies eavesdropping. Think of the freedom with your kids without a “stranger” in the house; discussing family history and plotting the future.

Will DIY spawn unemployment? One could ask what will happen to all the caddies, house helps, guards, dog walkers, painters, landscapers and other informal jobs?

Will the daily walks to affluent suburbs by “day scholars” , the name given to those who report to work daily without staying at the employers premises stop?

Some families might be so dependent on such workers because of affluence or old age that Covid-19 will make no difference.

But for the vast majority, the working relationship will change and has changed.

One observation I have made is the rise of contracted services beyond do it yourself .

Companies have cropped up to do services like cleaning or guarding. They have shifted from corporate to families.

I am informed even cooking is being outsourced, call someone to cook for you and pay. Services will join manufacturing into just in time system.

Those who lose jobs will be absorbed by the outsourcers or contracted services.

But we can’t rule out some jobs dying out. It’s the natural part of progress, change.

Technology will also help in destroying some jobs but creating others. Why hire a guard when CCTV could do that?

Why hire someone to clean your cutlery or clothes when washing machines can do that?

The stay at home orders for non-essential service providers may have tempted many firms to think of mechanising some tasks or outsourcing them.

Covid-19 gave companies a golden opportunity to find out who is dispensable.

By the time Covid-19 is over or controlled, a revolution in the work place will have taken place.

New jobs will be created like contact trackers and vaccinologists.

Security guards

But others will be destroyed or transformed like security guards checking your temperatures.

Some argue the high unemployment could delay the death of some jobs.

I would contest that. The job losers might discover life is better trying something else.

Think loudly, Covid-19 has transformed our lives while everyone was focused on lockdowns. It may take years before we map the transformations caused by Covid-19.

We have not even looked at the change in regulations.

Could the quick return to work despite Covid-19 be partly driven by the fear of losing jobs?

Some argue persuasively that the virus catalysed our shift to post Industrial Age.

It may have given fourth industrial revolution a chance to entrench itself in our lives.

May be that is the shock we need often without deaths to accept new reality like meetings online, churches online, shopping online and even exams online.

Silently, the power in the offices has shifted too. Will next CEO come from the ranks of ICT, not finance or operations?

How has Covid-19 affected your job and life? Share your experience with us.

 -The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi  

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