No matter how much technology we have, we’ve discovered we cannot escape nature’s grip. And yet, no matter how humbling this crisis has been, it also should remind us that even a massive jolt to the planet cannot change the trajectory of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If anything, we’re emerging from this crisis with an even greater desire to harness smart technologies, new forms of intelligence and vast pools of data to transform pretty much everything we do. COVID did not crush the future. It merely brought it forward.
In the short term, the economic recovery won’t be as fast as the consumer and social changes that are hitting every business and community. The scar tissue will take time to heal. We expect the Canadian economy, as measured by GDP, to decline 7.1% for 2020, as international trade limps along, unemployment remains elevated and consumers stay home, literally and figuratively. Even as provinces allow for businesses, community groups and eventually schools to reopen, a quiet nervousness will give the economy a collective pause, and people everywhere will focus anew on income security and health security.
This new age of insecurity will do more than pervade the Canadian psyche. We estimate that even with a modest recovery, the Canadian economy will be operating below pre-coronavirus levels until 2022, and the combined loss of economic output for Canada may exceed $1 trillion. The setback is already holding back investors and entrepreneurs, and may also give government leaders pause as they allocate unprecedented sums to kick-start an economy that may be reluctant to rev. Our regular tracking of small- and medium-sized business owners shows caution across the board: three-quarters have partially or fully closed, and a third have laid off staff. More worrisome, a quarter are not very confident they’ll make it. And while one in five Canadians feel they’re “sinking” economically, small business owners are twice as likely to hold that sentiment.
Who will be first back in the water is always a tough question, but that’s when the pearls of opportunity are most plentiful. Yes, the novel coronavirus of 2019 has unleashed a massive global recession – but it’s also unleashing waves of innovation as we all change the way we work, shop, eat and travel. And companies, old and new, that are watching this sudden sea change in human behaviour are starting to grow.
In this report, written by John Stackhouse we look at eight major trends underway in the world, and pinpoint the possibilities for savvy business operators, investors and innovators. We all know how much our lives have changed, and how we’re not likely to go back to our old ways. We’ll be more cautious but we also may be more creative. As history likes to remind us, with unprecedented times come unprecedented opportunities.