Working-class people face larger hit from social distancing

04 May 2020 Consultancy.com.au

The use of social distancing in the workplace will more than proportionately impact lower-income earners, according to a new analysis on the extent to which over 200 jobs requires workers to perform tasks in close physical proximity to other people. 

As shuttered businesses prepare for resuming on-site operations, they will need to take measures to ensure social distancing on the work floor. Measures commonly looked at to ensure people are 1.5 metres apart include providing anti-pandemic gear to employees, minimising the density of people in buildings, and using technologies such as location tracking apps, wearable tech and internet of things to keep track of where people are and who they have had contact with. 

For employees, social distancing will have major effects on the nature of their job, including on their ability to move around freely and collaborate with colleagues. However, not all jobs can be performed at a distance – therapists, dentists, hairdressers, waiters, fitness instructors and many more simply require some form of ‘contact’ for them to exercise their job.

Data analysis by management consultancy Nous Group indeed shows that different jobs will be impacted in very different ways. Across the labour market, while the while the rich will tend to be able to work from home or in redesigned offices, the overlarge part of working-class people won’t have that luxury.

Work context, income and gender analysis

“Lower-income earners are also more likely to work in jobs that involve physical proximity, such as waiters and café workers,” said David Diviny, a Principal and data analytics expert at Nous Group.

The analysis also found that women will disproportionally be impacted, because many jobs that involve close physical proximity to other people are more likely to be done by women, such as fitness instructors and hospitality workers.

Women are also overrepresented in ‘critical jobs’ such as nurses and caretakers, meaning that despite social distancing measures they will be obliged to continue to perform their job. Diviny: “[The government and organisations] will need to find ways to meet the challenge of supporting people to perform essential work while limiting the spread of the virus.”

Previous analysis from Nous Group – one of Australia’s leading home-grown consulting firms – found that Covid-19 is set to more severely affect society’s most vulnerable groups.


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