Photo credit unsplash/Timon Studler

Restructuring business, trade and the future of work

The radical shock to business comes on top of a series of shifts brought about by the fourth industrial revolution, as increased use of data, technology and AI creates new opportunities and challenges for business, society and governments. This crisis is sure to accelerate these changes — not least in our working practices, as some people discover that what they did in the office they can also do, and perhaps more productively, from home. But the pandemic has also brought home the risks of the ‘gig economy’, in which people work without a formal contract and guaranteed benefits. The crisis has revealed the fragility of ‘just in time’ global supply chains, and is highlighting the strengths of a ‘just in case’ model of resilience and local sourcing. This is all happening as geopolitical tensions grow, posing their own threats to international trade. How will — and should — governments, businesses and labour respond? Has trade globalisation reached its zenith? Does the crisis pose a challenge to models of liberal capitalism and profit maximisation, or underscore the need for them?