What will Morocco look like after the COVID-19 pandemic? New fears arise about work and the economy in a post-pandemic world.
Rabat — The economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe could be far more wide-reaching and lost-lasting than originally imagined, according to new findings from the McKinsey Global Institute.
The report, which examined eight major global economies including China, India, and the United States, found that COVID-19 expedited three major employment trends that are likely to stick around: Remote work, e-commerce, and automation.
As a result, pandemic-related economic disruptions are likely to be far greater than previously estimated, particularly for women, young people, low-skill workers, ethnic minorities, and immigrants. These groups, the findings explain, are far more likely to be displaced by the growing trends towards automation and AI.
The institute quantifies that over 100 million workers — or one in 16 across the eight countries examined — will need to switch jobs or face unemployment due to the economic disruption wrought by the virus.
Should the same trends hold for Morocco, by 2030, nearly 700,000 working Moroccans could have their livelihoods uprooted by COVID-19.
However, some suggest that the monetary impacts of the coronavirus could look strikingly different in African economies than in the rest of the world.
McKinsey asserts that the long-term impact of COVID-19 on work in developing economies will be lower than in more developed counterparts, maintaining that pre-existing structural changes within these economies are the more important drivers of change.
However, some experts disagree. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the economic impact of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa could be “the worst outcome on record.” The findings point to lack of diversification as a huge risk factor for these economies in responding to the challenges of the pandemic.
Conversations about automation and technology’s growing role in the Moroccan workplace are far from new. In 2017, McKinsey found that over half of all work activities in Morocco could be automated in the coming years, the highest rate in Africa.
The report states, “The most changes are likely in the four work arenas with relatively high physical proximity scores: on-site customer interaction, leisure and travel, computer-based office work, and indoor production and warehousing.”
Such services, such as retail and travel, comprise over half of the Moroccan economy and support an estimated six million workers domestically.
While the nature of work in Morocco going forward remains uncertain, early evidence finds that remote work and virtual interaction could bolster productivity and output in multiple economic sectors.
“During the pandemic, policy-makers, companies, and workers adapted to new ways of work more quickly than previously thought possible, out of sheer necessity,” the report clarifies. “In the longer term, similarly agile and collaborative responses could lead to higher productivity growth and create career paths with upward mobility for workers.”
The findings stress that the far-reaching economic damage as a result of the coronavirus is not inevitable but can be mitigated through strategic responses in both the public and private sector.
Businesses can manage rapidly-changing economic norms by “reimagining where and how work is done” and finding new ways to recruit, train, and deploy workers.
McKinsey emphasizes the keen importance of digital infrastructure and internet access in removing future barriers to labor mobility. The report urges policymakers to consider expanding or subsidizing said infrastructure to support workers facing job transitions and employment challenges in volatile markets.
It is likely that Morocco’s “mature” mobile infrastructure — which some have described as one of the most comprehensive in Africa — will be critical in responding to these challenges.
The support of businesses and policy-makers will be invaluable in equipping the country’s workers to thrive in a post-COVID economy, McKinsey asserts.
The report concludes, “If a robot can learn to flip hamburgers, then a shop clerk can learn to be a nurse practitioner, a cybersecurity analyst, or a wind turbine service technician— with the right support.”