Generation COVID: How Does The Pandemic Affect Job Market Prospects?

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Generation COVID: How Does The Pandemic Affect Job Market Prospects?
*Dr. Wajdi Zaghouani
In light of ongoing school lockdowns and the fundamental shift of education into the digital space, the question arises as to what impact this will have on tomorrow's workforce and work environment. A "Generation COVID" will be entering job markets across the world in the near future, all with similar pandemic-era school and educational experiences. Will that make them weaker or even stronger in facing the challenges of work-life?
Following the spread of COVID-19, 192 nations have closed schools and universities, according to UNESCO estimates in March 2020, negatively affecting 91% of the world's learners, with an estimated 1.5 billion youth and nearly 60.2 million teachers no longer learning and teaching in a physical classroom. This new generation of pupils and students is currently facing a novel and uniquely challenging online environment. 
While the adverse COVID-19 situation may have impacted everyone, it mostly influences the generation born between 1990 and 2010, otherwise also known as Generation Z. As the coronavirus continues to push remote teaching, research and scholarship around the world, it is likely to be prompting Generation Z to reconsider their plans on what to do when they eventually graduate. Fortunately, this generation is likely to be much better positioned to cope with the new situation, as compared to older generations.
Generation Z is commonly known for being the first wave of truly "digital citizens," far more tech-savvy than Millennials (also known as Generation Y) who preceded them, or even previous generations. A time will come when Millennials will be the last to have witnessed life before the digital age. Likewise, decades later, Generation Z or Generation COVID would become the last generation to have memories of the time preceding the pandemic, pre-digital era.
Generation COVID meanwhile will have an innate knowledge of today’s emerging technologies, being part of the tech-savvy generation that is always connected, spending an estimated 10 hours a day online. Very soon, this digital native generation will join the job market, changing it at a rapid pace, taking with them their unique experiences in managing pandemic-induced remote learning, working and living.
The COVID generation will indeed be known as the resilient generation that weathered a very difficult time, experiencing a global health crisis that has been tackled without their lives and the planet collapsing. They will grow up with the lessons learned during the pandemic, and will become leaders who can push for change in the future work environment when it is most needed.
The COVID generation will have gained unprecedented expertise in remote learning, making them comfortable or better, and more instinctive at remote communication with their peers.
As this generation is constantly connected while exchanging information on blogs and social networking platforms, they grow up with an ability to better manage and filter the influx of information while becoming masters of multitasking, a much-needed skill in any era’s job market.
The period when digital natives join the workforce will see them infuse their workplaces with a novel style and digital work culture based on heavy use of technology to enhance their productivity and performance. This will eventually benefit their workplace and by training less tech-savvy colleagues, extend to entire corporate and organizational ecosystems.
With COVID-19 still ongoing, the current economic crisis and decline in conventional employment opportunities may prompt many jobseekers to switch to freelancing and working from home. It will again be Generation COVID that finds it easier to adapt given their resilience and flexibility in these challenging times. 
In the past, it was observed that those who grew up in times of difficulty, such as the Great Depression, appeared to be more resilient and flexible throughout their lives. The COVID generation, with their impressive ability to accept and adopt remote learning, is already showing a level of resilience and flexibility as they prove to be adaptable to major changes in a remarkably short time. 
On the negative side, while technology has enabled Generation Z to communicate with their peers and continue learning from home, it has also isolated them by cutting off human contact, necessary to develop a sense of belonging and experience social interactions. The extensive use of technology may therefore reduce some of their soft skills while improving their technical skills.
In this regard, The Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum highlights that social and communication skills, cognitive and emotional intelligence, as well as cognitive flexibility among others, may be in short supply in the future as heavy reliance on technology continues to grow.
Regardless of the negatives, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has already deeply and unchangeably altered our jobs and what they entail. Generation COVID will have to face this new reality and make use of the opportunities by taking advantage of their experiences and strength in digital technologies.
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