Lack of social mobility, as manifested in the employment that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are able to access, has been exposed as a major problem, as the pandemic has disproportionately disrupted the working lives of those who work in the hospitality and retail industries (amongst others). Whilst employees in the Civil Service, major online retailers and professional/office jobs have generally been able to adapt to the enforced change in working patterns that has occurred due to the pandemic, those who work in the hospitality and retail industry have had no alternative recourse, no way to ‘pivot’ to new working demands. It goes without saying that these jobs tend to be occupied by those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder who oftentimes have not had the privilege of higher education. To illustrate this point, just 30% of workers in the tourism sector have a degree or higher-level qualification, compared to 42,9% of employees in other industries.
Whilst we all sincerely hope that this disruption to employment is being remedied with the roll-out of the vaccine, other pre-existing job-market trends (such as the increased prevalence of AI and automation) are only going to continue to endanger the stability of these professions and the pandemic has served to highlight their true precarity.
One of the major implications of this phenomenon is that entire families, or further still entire communities, could be left devastated by changes in the economy that render their business or profession obsolete. It is therefore of vital importance that our workforce is sufficiently diversified and flexible, that workers can adapt to seismic shifts in the job market. This includes both upwards and lateral social mobility; people need education or training to be able to transition between roles that are not accessible to them under current systems.