As a sombre storyline attached to the global outbreak of COVID-19, it has become inevitable that the services industry has been decimated, most evidenced by Qantas’ decision to stand down 20,000 of its workforce, and others will follow.
The Qantas decision comes after yesterday’s national address from Prime Minister Scott Morrison who forewarned Australia that any societal changes made in an effort to combat the coronavirus spread, will be in effect for at least six months – devastating news for those businesses and employees already feeling the pinch of virus vigilance.
Videos have emerged on the internet of footage around the world where coronavirus fears and social gathering laws have decimated cities.
The streets of Paris are empty as major tourist attractions including The Louvre and Eiffel Tower are shut. The normally gridlocked highways of Los Angeles are flowing free as a river. Melbourne’s once-bustling laneways of Bourke Street Mall could be mistaken for a graveyard.
So whilst the mortality rate of COVID-19 is less than 1%, it could well prove to be the world’s deadliest virus via the collateral damage of mass unemployment as a result of societal lockdown.
At Qantas, the decision to stand down 20,000 of their workforce until at least the end of May will be tough for those without the annual leave accrued to see out the duration. To combat this, Qantas has offered 4 weeks of leave in advance for its employees but the reality is that the travel industry shutdown will likely extend well beyond May, leaving many of those employees in limbo as to when they will be asked to return to work.
For those with mortgage payments, school fees and investment portfolios which have been devastated, the possibility of employment purgatory is not a sustainable one. This extends to the many hospitality workers with restaurants, cafes and pubs amongst the hardest hit due to the pitfalls of a workforce employed mostly on a casual basis and with no leave entitlements.
With the hysteria surrounding panic buying of supermarket goods, Coles recently announced it would be hiring 5,000 new staff to help stock shelves which were being depleted daily. They ended up with more than 35,000 applications – the majority of which were grossly overqualified for such tasks.
Beyond this destruction, the world of sports has come to a standstill with three of the world’s most commercial leagues, the NBA, Major League Baseball and English Premier League suspending their seasons, there is a domino effect rippling through the industry. With no sports to broadcast, the already tight media industry has been tipped beyond tenterhooks with Fox Sports recently letting go a significant amount of its talent due to a lack of newsflow. This comes just a week after the disbandment of the Australian Associated Press.
Elsewhere, construction sites are empty, office blocks are dormant as employers send their staff home and more children are being pulled out of school each day. With Britain last night announcing a shutdown of all schools and childcare centres, thousands of British teachers enter employment purgatory with no escape in immediate sight whilst Australian teachers fear the same.
Although it has a death rate of less than 1% where the majority of deaths have been from those with compromised immune systems, the collateral damage of COVID-19 is going to be much deadlier.