The economic crisis and food system disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic will worsen the lack of nutrition in women and children, with the potential to cost the world almost $30 billion in future productivity losses. As many as 3 billion people may be unable to afford a healthy diet due to the pandemic, according to a study published in Nature Food journal. This will exacerbate maternal and child under-nutrition in low- and middle-income countries, causing stunting, wasting, mortality and maternal anemia.
Nearly 690 million people were undernourished in 2019, up by almost 60 million since 2014. Nearly half of all deaths in children under age five are attributable to undernutrition and, regrettably, stunting and wasting still have strong impacts worldwide.
In 2019, 21 per cent of all children under age five (144 million) were stunted and 49.5 million children experienced wasting.The effects of the pandemic will increase child hunger, and an additional 6.7 million children are predicted to be wasted by the end of 2020 due to the pandemic’s impact.
The situation continues to be most alarming in Africa: 19 per cent of its population is under-nourished (more than 250 million people), with the highest prevalence of undernourishment among all global regions. Africa is the only region where the number of stunted children has risen since 2000.
Women and girls represent more than 70 per cent of people facing chronic hunger. They are more likely to reduce their meal intake in times of food scarcity and may be pushed to engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as transactional sex and child, early and forced marriage.
Extreme climatic events drove almost 34 million people into food crisis in 25 countries in 2019, 77 per cent of them in Africa. The number of people pushed into food crisis by economic shocks more than doubled to 24 million in eight countries in 2019 (compared to 10 million people in six countries the previous year).
Food insecurity is set to get much worse unless unsustainable global food systems are addressed. Soils around the world are heading for exhaustion and depletion. An estimated 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded, endangering food production and the provision of vital ecosystem services.
Evidence from food security assessments and analysis shows that COVID-19 has had a compounding effect on pre-existing vulnerabilities and stressors in countries with pre-existing food crises. In Sudan, an estimated 9.6 million people (21 per cent of the population) were experiencing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in the third quarter of 2020 and needed urgent action. This is the highest figure ever recorded for Sudan.
Food security needs are set to increase dramatically in 2021 as the pandemic and global response measures seriously affect food systems worldwide. Entire food supply chains have been disrupted, and the cost of a basic food basket increased by more than 10 per cent in 20 countries in the second quarter of 2020.
Delays in the farming season due to disruptions in supply chains and restrictions on labour movement are resulting in below-average harvests across many countries and regions. This is magnified by pre-existing or seasonal threats and vulnerabilities, such as conflict and violence, looming hurricane and monsoon seasons, and locust infestations. Further climatic changes are expected from La Niña.
Forecasters predict a 55 per cent change in climate conditions through the first quarter of 2021, impacting sea temperatures, rainfall patterns and hurricane activity. The ensuing floods and droughts that could result from La Niña will affect farming seasons worldwide, potentially decreasing crop yields and increasing food insecurity levels.
The devastating impact of COVID-19 is still playing out in terms of rising unemployment, shattered livelihoods and increasing hunger. Families are finding it harder to put healthy food on a plate, child malnutrition is threatening millions. The risk of famine is real in places like Burkina Faso, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.
COVID-19 has ushered hunger into the lives of more urban communities while placing the vulnerable, such as IDPs, refugees, migrants, older persons, women and girls, people caught in conflict, and those living at the sharp end of climate change at higher risk of starvation. The pandemic hit at a time when the number of acutely food-insecure people in the world had already risen since 2014, largely due to conflict, climate change and economic shocks.
Acute food-insecurity is projected to increase by more than 80 percent – from 149 million pre-COVID-19, to 270 million by the end of 2020 – in 79 of the countries where WFP works. The number of people in crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) almost tripled in Burkina Faso compared to the 2019 peak of the food insecurity situation, with 11,000 people facing catastrophic hunger (IPC/CH Phase 5) in mid-2020.
For populations in IPC3 and above, urgent and sustained humanitarian assistance is required to prevent a deterioration in the hunger situation. It is alarming that in 2020, insufficient funds left food security partners unable to deliver the assistance required. For example, sustained food ration reductions in Yemen have directly contributed to reduced food consumption since March. Today, Yemen is one of four countries at real risk of famine.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, food security has been a global concern – in the second quarter of 2020 there were multiple warnings of famine later in the year. According to early predictions, hundreds of thousands of people would likely die and millions more experience hunger without concerted efforts to address issues of food security.
In September 2020, David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, addressed the United Nations Security Council, stating that measures taken by donor countries over the course of the preceding five months, including the provision of $17 trillion in fiscal stimulus and central bank support, the suspension of debt repayments instituted by the IMF and G20 countries for the benefit of poorer countries, and donor support for WFP programmes, had averted impending famine, helping 270 million people at risk of starvation.
May 29, Geoffrey P. Johnston More from Geoffrey P. Johnston Published on; May 29, 2020 | Last Updated; Edt, 2020 10:08 Am (29 May 2020). “Foodgrains bank working to prevent famine”. The Kingston Whig-Standard. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
Imagine Imagine logging on to your own account with the U.S. Federal Reserve. With your laptop or phone, you could zap cash anywhere instantly. There’d be no middlemen, no fees, no waiting for deposits or payments to clear.
That vision sums up the appeal of the digital dollar, the dream of futurists and the bane of bankers. It’s not the Bitcoin bros and other cryptocurrency fans pushing the disruptive idea but America’s financial and political elite. Fed Chair Jerome Powell promises fresh research and a set of policy questions for Congress to ponder this summer. J. Christopher Giancarlo, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is rallying support through the nonprofit Digital Dollar Project, a partnership with consulting giant Accenture Plc. To perpetuate American values such as free enterprise and the rule of law, “we should modernize the dollar,” he recently told a U.S. Senate banking subcommittee.
For now the dollar remains the premier global reserve currency and preferred legal tender for international trade and financial transactions. But a new flavor of cryptocurrency could pose a threat to that dominance, which is part of the reason the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on developing prototypes for a digital-dollar platform.
Other governments, notably China’s, are ahead in digitizing their currencies. In these nations, regulators worry that the possibilities for fraud are multiplying as more individuals embrace cryptocurrency. Steven Mnuchin, former President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, said he saw no immediate need for a digital dollar. His successor, Janet Yellen, has expressed interest in studying it. Support for a virtual greenback cuts across party lines in Congress, which will have a say on whether it becomes reality.
At a hearing in June, Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, signaled openness to the idea. Warren and other Democrats stressed the potential of the digital dollar to offer free services to low-income families who now pay high banking fees or are shut out of the system altogether.
Kennedy and fellow Republicans see a financial equivalent of the space race that pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union—a battle for prestige, power, and first-mover advantage. This time the adversary is China, which announced this month that more than 10 million citizens are now eligible to participate in ongoing trials.
The strongest opposition to a virtual dollar will come from U.S. banks. They rely on $17 trillion in deposits to fund much of their core business, profiting from the difference between what they pay in interest to account holders and what they charge for loans. Banks also earn billions of dollars annually from overdraft, ATM, and account maintenance fees. By creating a digital currency, the Federal Reserve would in effect be competing with banks for customers.
In a recent blog post, Greg Baer, president of the Bank Policy Institute, which represents the industry, warned that homebuyers, businesses, and other customers would find it harder and more expensive to borrow money if the Fed were to infringe on the private sector’s historical central role in finance. “The Federal Reserve would gain extraordinary power,” wrote Baer, a former assistant treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
Some economists warn that a digital dollar could destabilize the banking system. The federal government offers bank depositors $250,0000 in insurance, a program that’s successfully prevented bank runs since the Great Depression. But in a 2008-style financial panic, depositors might with a single click pull all their savings out of banks and convert them into direct obligations of the U.S. government.
“In a crisis, this may actually make matters worse,” says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and the author of a book on digital currencies that will be published in September. Whether a virtual dollar is even necessary remains up for debate. For large companies, cross-border interbank payments are already fast, limiting the appeal of digital currencies. Early adopters of Bitcoin may have won an investment windfall as its value soared, but its volatility makes it a poor substitute for a reliable government-backed currency such as the dollar.
Yet there’s a new kind of crypto, called stablecoin, that could pose a threat to the dollar’s dominance. Similar to the other digital currencies, it’s essentially a string of code tracked and authenticated via an online ledger. But it has a crucial difference from Bitcoin and its ilk: Its value is pegged to a sovereign currency like the dollar, so it offers stability as well as privacy.
In June 2019, Facebook Inc. announced it was developing a stablecoin called Libra ( since renamed Diem). The social media giant’s 2.85 billion active users worldwide represent a huge test market. “That was a game changer,” Prasad says. “That served as a catalyst for a lot of central banks.”
Regulators also have concerns about consumer protection. Stablecoin is only as stable as the network of private participants who manage it on the web. Should something go wrong, holders could find themselves empty-handed. That prospect places pressure on governments to come up with their own alternatives.
Although the Fed has been studying the idea of a digital dollar since at least 2017, crucial details, including what role private institutions will play, remain unresolved. In the Bahamas, the only country with a central bank digital currency, authorized financial institutions are allowed to offer e-wallets for handling sand dollars, the virtual counterpart to the Bahamian dollar.
If depositors flocked to the virtual dollar, banks would need to find another way to fund their loans. Advocates of a digital dollar float the possibility of the Fed lending to banks so they could write loans. To help banks preserve deposits, the government could also set a ceiling on how much digital currency citizens can hold. In the Bahamas the amount is capped at $8,000.
Lev Menand, an Obama administration treasury adviser, cautions against such compromises, saying the priority should be offering unfettered access to a central bank digital currency, or CBDC. Menand, who now lectures at Columbia Law School, says that because this idea would likely require the passage of legislation, Congress faces a big decision: to create “a robust CBDC or a skim milk sort of product that has been watered down as a favor to big banks.”
Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own.
Led by countries as large as China and as small as the Bahamas, digital money is drawing stronger interest as the future of an increasingly cashless society. A digital dollar would resemble cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum in some limited respects, but differ in important ways.
Rather than be a tradable asset with wildly fluctuating prices and limited use, the central bank digital currency would function more like dollars and have widespread acceptance. It also would be fully regulated and under a central authority.
Myriad questions remain before an institution as large as the Fed will wade in. But the momentum is building around the world. As the Fed and other central banks work through those logistical issues, Wall Street is growing in anticipation over what the future will hold.
“The race towards Digital Money 2.0 is on,” Citigroup said in a report. “Some have framed it as a new Space Race or Digital Currency Cold War. In our view, it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game — there’s a lot of room for the overall digital pie to grow.”
There, however, has been at least the semblance of a race, and China is perceived as taking the early lead. With the launch of a digital yuan last year, some fear that the edge China has ultimately could undermine the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Though China said that is not its objective, a Bank of America report notes that issuing digital dollars would let the U.S. currency “remain highly competitive … relative to other currencies.”
You’ve probably heard that the coronavirus pandemic triggered a worldwide mental-health crisis. This narrative took hold almost as quickly as the virus itself. In the spring of 2020, article after article—even an op-ed by one of us—warned of a looming psychological epidemic.
As clinical scientists and research psychologists have pointed out, the coronavirus pandemic has created many conditions that might lead to psychological distress: sudden, widespread disruptions to people’s livelihoods and social connections; millions bereaved; and the most vulnerable subjected to long-lasting hardship. A global collapse in well-being has seemed inevitable.
We joined a mental-health task force, commissioned by The Lancet, in order to quantify the pandemic’s psychological effects. When we reviewed the best available data, we saw that some groups—including people facing financial stress—have experienced substantial, life-changing suffering. However, looking at the global population on the whole, we were surprised not to find the prolonged misery we had expected.
We combed through close to 1,000 studies that examined hundreds of thousands of people from nearly 100 countries. This research measured many variables related to mental health—including anxiety, depression, and deaths by suicide—as well as life satisfaction. We focused on two complementary types of evidence:
Surveys that examined comparable groups of people before and during the pandemic and studies tracking the same individuals over time. Neither type of study is perfect, but when the same conclusions emerged from both sets of evidence, we gained confidence that we were seeing something real.
Early in the pandemic, our team observed in these studies what the media was reporting: Average levels of anxiety and depression—as well as broader psychological distress—climbed dramatically, as did the number of people experiencing clinically significant forms of these conditions.
For example, in both the U.S. and Norway, reports of depression rose three-fold during March and April of 2020 compared with averages collected in previous years. And in a study of more than 50,000 people across the United Kingdom, 27 percent showed clinically significant levels of distress early in the pandemic, compared with 19 percent before the pandemic.
But as spring turned to summer, something remarkable happened: Average levels of depression, anxiety, and distress began to fall. Some data sets even suggested that overall psychological distress returned to near-pre-pandemic levels by early summer 2020. We share what we learned in a paper that is forthcoming in Perspective on Psychological Science.
We kept digging into the data to account for any anomalies. For example, some of the data sets came disproportionately from wealthy countries, so we expanded our geographic lens. We also considered that even if the pandemic didn’t produce intense, long-term distress, it might have undercut people’s overall life satisfaction. So, members from our team examined the largest data set available on that topic, from the Gallup World Poll.
This survey asks people to evaluate their life on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best possible life and zero being the worst. Representative samples of people from most of the world’s countries answer this question every year, allowing us to compare results from 2020 with preceding years. Looking at the world as a whole, we saw no trace of a decline in life satisfaction: People in 2020 rated their lives at 5.75 on average, identical to the average in previous years.
We also wondered if the surveys weren’t reaching the people who were struggling the most. If you’re barely holding things together, you might not answer calls from a researcher. However, real-time data from official government sources in 21 countries showed no detectable increase in instances of suicide from April to July 2020, relative to previous years; in fact, suicide rates actually declined slightly within some countries, including the U.S. For example, California expected to see 1,429 deaths by suicide during this period, based on data from prior years; instead, 1,280 occurred.
We were surprised by how well many people weathered the pandemic’s psychological challenges. In order to make sense of these patterns, we looked back to a classic psychology finding: People are more resilient than they themselves realize. We imagine that negative life events—losing a job or a romantic partner—will be devastating for months or years. When people actually experience these losses, however, their misery tends to fade far faster than they imagined it would.
The capacity to withstand difficult events also applies to traumas such as living through war or sustaining serious injury. These incidents can produce considerable anguish, and we don’t want to minimize the pain that so many suffer. But study after study demonstrates that a majority of survivors either bounce back quickly or never show a substantial decline in mental health.
Human beings possess what some researchers call a psychological immune system, a host of cognitive abilities that enable us to make the best of even the worst situation. For example, after breaking up with a romantic partner, people may focus on the ex’s annoying habits or relish their newfound free time.
The pandemic has been a test of the global psychological immune system, which appears more robust than we would have guessed. When familiar sources of enjoyment evaporated in the spring of 2020, people got creative. They participated in drive-by birthday parties, mutual-assistance groups, virtual cocktail evenings with old friends, and nightly cheers for health-care workers.
Some people got really good at baking. Many found a way to reweave their social tapestry. Indeed, across multiple large data sets, levels of loneliness showed only a modest increase, with 13.8 percent of adults in the U.S. reporting always or often feeling lonely in April 2020, compared with 11 percent in spring 2018.
But these broad trends and averages shouldn’t erase the real struggles—immense pain, overwhelming loss, financial hardships—that so many people have faced over the past 17 months. For example, that 2.8 percent increase in the number of Americans reporting loneliness last spring represents 7 million people. Like so many aspects of the pandemic, the coronavirus’s mental-health toll was not distributed evenly.
Early on, some segments of the population—including women and parents of young children—exhibited an especially pronounced increase in overall psychological distress. As the pandemic progressed, lasting mental-health challenges disproportionately affected people who were facing financial issues, individuals who got sick with COVID-19, and those who had been struggling with physical and mental-health disorders prior to the pandemic.
The resilience of the population as a whole does not relieve leaders of their responsibility to provide tangible support and access to mental-health services to those people who have endured the most intense distress and who are at the greatest ongoing risk.
But the astonishing resilience that most people have exhibited in the face of the sudden changes brought on by the pandemic holds its own lessons. We learned that people can handle temporary changes to their lifestyle—such as working from home, giving up travel, or even going into isolation—better than some policy makers seemed to assume.
As we look ahead to the world’s next great challenges—including a future pandemic—we need to remember this hard-won lesson: Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being. This knowledge should empower us to make the disruptive changes our societies may require, even as we support the individuals and communities that have been hit hardest.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of people around the world. Similar to the past respiratory viral epidemics, such as the SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and the influenza epidemics, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in different population groups, including the healthcare workers, general public, and the patients and quarantined individuals.
The Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations recommends that the core principles of mental health support during an emergency are “do no harm, promote human rights and equality, use participatory approaches, build on existing resources and capacities, adopt multi-layered interventions and work with integrated support systems.”COVID-19 is affecting people’s social connectedness, their trust in people and institutions, their jobs and incomes, as well as imposing a huge toll in terms of anxiety and worry.
China’s V-shaped economic rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic is slowing, sending a warning to the rest of world about how durable their own recoveries will prove to be.
The changing outlook was underscored Friday when the People’s Bank of China cut the amount of cash most banks must hold in reserve in order to boost lending. While the PBOC said the move isn’t a renewed stimulus push, the breadth of the 50 basis-point cut to most banks reserve ratio requirement came as a surprise.
Data on Thursday is expected to show growth eased in the second quarter to 8% from the record gain of 18.3% in the first quarter, according to a Bloomberg poll of economists. Key readings of retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment are all set to moderate too.
The PBOC’s swift move to lower banks’ RRR is one way of making sure the recovery plateaus from here, rather then stumbles.
The economy was always expected to descend from the heights hit during its initial rebound and as last year’s low base effect washes out. But economists say the softening has come sooner than expected, and could now ripple across the world.
“There is no doubt that the impact of a slowing China on the global economy will be bigger than it was five years ago,” said Rob Subbaraman, head of global markets research at Nomura Holdings Inc. “China’s ‘first-in, first-out’ status from Covid-19 could also influence market expectations that if China’s economy is cooling now, others will soon follow.”
Group of 20 finance ministers meeting in Venice on Saturday signaled alarm over threats that could derail a fragile global recovery, saying new variants of the coronavirus and an uneven pace of vaccination could undermine a brightening outlook for the world economy. China’s state media also cited several analysts Monday saying domestic growth will slow in the second half because of an uncertain global recovery.
China’s slowing recovery also reinforces the view that factory inflation has likely peaked and commodity prices could moderate further.
“China’s growth slowdown should mean near-term disinflation pressures globally, particularly on demand for industrial metals and capital goods,” said Wei Yao, chief economist for the Asia Pacific at Societe Generale SA.
The changing outlook reflects the advanced stage of China’s recovery as growth stabilizes, according to Bloomberg Economics.
What Bloomberg Economics Says…
“Looking through the data distortions, the recovery is maturing, not stumbling. Activity and trade data for June will likely paint a similar picture — a slower, but still-solid expansion.”
Domestically, the big puzzle continues to be why retail sales are still soft given the virus remains under control. It’s likely that sales slowed again in June, according to Bloomberg Economics, as sentiment was weighed by controls to contain sporadic outbreaks of the virus.
Even with the PBOC’s support for small and mid-sized businesses, there’s no sign of a broad reversal in the disciplined stimulus approach authorities have taken since the crisis began.
The RRR cut was partially to “manage expectations” ahead of the second-quarter economic data this week, said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong.
“It also provides more policy room going forward, as the momentum of the economic recovery has surely slowed.”
— With assistance by Enda Curran, Yujing Liu, and Bihan Chen
This placed it near the middle of the Asian nations during the same period, with neighboring capitalist countries such as Japan, South Korea and rival Chiang Kai-shek‘s Republic of China outstripping the PRC’s rate of growth. Starting in 1970, the economy entered into a period of stagnation, and after the death of CCP ChairmanMao Zedong, the Communist Party leadership turned to market-oriented reforms to salvage the failing economy.
Johnson & Johnson will pay as much as $230 million to settle a lawsuit from New York state over its sale and marketing of opioid painkillers, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Saturday, as state and local governments move to extract money from the pharmaceutical companies that developed the drugs to help combat an epidemic of addiction to them.
The settlement will remove Johnson & Johnson from a trial in a lawsuit brought by James against multiple pharmaceutical companies that’s set to start on Long Island next week.
Johnson & Johnson will pay as much as $230 million into a state-operated settlement fund to underwrite addiction recovery services, overdose prevention, training for healthcare providers and other opioid-related purposes.
James said Johnson & Johnson has agreed to stop selling opioids in the United States, but the company says it stopped selling prescription painkillers in the U.S. last year.
The settlement does not require Johnson & Johnson to admit any wrongdoing or liability, and the company called its marketing of painkillers “appropriate and responsible” in a Saturday morning statement.
“While no amount of money will ever compensate for the thousands who lost their lives or became addicted to opioids across our state or provide solace to the countless families torn apart by this crisis, these funds will be used to prevent any future devastation, James said in a statement.
James sued Johnson & Johnson along with several other drugmakers in 2019, accusing the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company of aggressively marketing its opioid painkillers to doctors and inaccurately downplaying the risk of addiction. The lawsuit tied the company to a nationwide opioid abuse epidemic fueled largely by the overuse of powerful, addictive prescription drugs. Several other state and local officials have weighed action against Johnson & Johnson, and the company said last year it’s open to paying $5 billion in settlements.
The opioid epidemic, also referred to as the opioid crisis, is the phrase used to describe the overuse, misuse/abuse, and overdose deaths attributed either in part or in whole to the class of drugs opiates/opioids, and the significant medical, social, psychological, and economic consequences of both the medical and the non-medical or recreational use of these medications.
Due to their sedative effects on the part of the brain which regulates breathing, the respiratory center of the medulla oblongata, opioids in high doses present the potential for respiratory depression and may cause respiratory failure and death. Opioids are highly effective for treating acute pain, but a debate rages over whether they are effective in treating chronic (long term) or high impact intractable pain, as the risks may outweigh the benefits.
Most deaths worldwide from opioids and prescription drugs are from sexually transmitted infections passed through shared needles – citation needed. This has led to a global initiative of needle exchange programs and research into the varying needle types carrying STIs. In Europe, prescription opioids account for three‐quarter of overdose deaths, which represent 3.5% of total deaths among 15-39-year-olds.
Some worry that the epidemic could become a worldwide pandemic if not curtailed.Prescription drug abuse among teenagers in Canada, Australia, and Europe were comparable to U.S. teenagers. In Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and in parts of China, surveys found that one in ten students had used prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes. Similar high rates of non-medical use were found among the young throughout Europe, including Spain and the United Kingdom.
Cognizant’s “Jobs of the Future Index” posts a 29% increase as tech-oriented job markets begin to return to normal, notes Robert Brown, a futurist within the company’s Center for the Future of Work. The US labor market is recovering faster than expected, as successful vaccination programs and stimulus dollars generate sweeping impacts throughout the nation.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, together with the full inoculation of 51 million Americans by the close of the first quarter (and at least partial inoculation of more than 50% of the adult population by April’s end), are instilling confidence in both consumers and businesses. The accelerated use of and reliance on digital technology during the pandemic are now being accompanied by long-term investment in a digitally enabled workforce to meet the needs of tomorrow.
Cognizant’s “Jobs of the Future Index (CJoF Index)” tracks demand for 50 digitally enabled jobs of the future identified by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, capturing the quarterly fluctuations in postings for these jobs. In the first quarter of 2021, the growth of the CJoF Index outpaced that of the Burning Glass jobs index by nearly 10%.
The CJoF increased 28.8% from the previous quarter (from an index figure of 1.22 to 1.57). The Burning Glass index posted a quarter-on-quarter increase of 18.9%, rising from 1.45 to 1.72. These are the greatest gains for either index in the past two years, signaling not only a strengthening labor market but also a larger shift from business survival to digital growth and expansion.
Note, however, that growth notwithstanding, digitally enabled job postings remain far below pre-pandemic levels. The CJoF Index posted a severe year-on-year decline of 22.2%, dropping from 2.02 in Q1 2020 (its highest value ever) to 1.57 in Q1 2021. Growth in digitally enabled positions, which broadly represent higher-wage earners and larger investments for employers, signals longer-term economic confidence — which has yet to be fully achieved.
In contrast, the demand for all jobs is on the verge of bouncing back; the Burning Glass index posted a negligible year-on-year decline of 2.8%. That’s because brick-and-mortar jobs have been more susceptible to business restrictions and lockdowns; they’re now seeing a rush of activity as the economy reopens.
A rising tide: Quarterly growth for all CJoF job families
In addition to total job openings, the CJoF Index monitors trends in eight job families: Algorithms, Automation and AI; Customer Experience; Environment; Fitness and Wellness; Healthcare; Legal and Financial Services; Transport; and Work Culture.
In the first quarter, all eight families registered quarter-on-quarter increases, with the most modest growth in Work Culture (14.5%) and Healthcare (18.5%). Over the quarter, Fitness and Wellness (137.8%) and Transport (38.0%) emerged as top-performing jobs families after experiencing the largest declines in Q4 2020.
Measured over the year, seven of eight families posted declines: Work Culture (-27.8%), Algorithms, Automation and AI (-24.3%), Transport (-16.9%), Customer Experience (-15.7%), Legal and Financial Services (-13.1%), Environmental (-2.8%), and Fitness and Wellness (-2.3%) all dropped. Healthcare (12.4%) was the only family in the CJoF Index to register year-on-year growth.
The Fitness and Wellnessfamily posted the sharpest quarterly increase in job postings (+137.8%) thanks to especially strong growth in digitally enabled Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (249.5%) and Home Health Aide (156.5%) postings. These two job categories have experienced much volatility during the pandemic, running countercyclical with expectations for the progression of the virus.
During declines in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Q1 2021, patients underwent long-postponed elective and routine medical procedures, thereby increasing the demand for in-home care.
Also noteworthy was the Transport family, which realized the second-largest increase (38.0%), led by gains in job postings for Aerospace Engineer (47.6%) and Urban/Transportation Planner (42.1%). The most recent federal stimulus package provided a much-needed lifeline to the travel industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic.
Algorithms, Automation and AI,the largest family in the CJoF Index, realized a 28.3% gain over the quarter. Within this family, 15 of the 16 individual job indexes registered quarter-on-quarter growth. However, only five categories showed year-over-year expansion. Unsurprisingly, each of these also saw growth for the quarter in Q1 2021: Robotics Engineer (73.0%), Robotics Technician (50.2%), Chief Information Officer/Director of Information Technology (47.1%), Mechatronics Engineer (45.7%), and Data Scientist (+42.2%).
The pandemic dampened tech hiring despite the increased reliance on digital technologies to facilitate collaboration and interaction among remote workers. But experts predict that tech occupations will recover to their pre-pandemic strength in 2021 as organizations accelerate their adoption of cloud strategies and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
Quarterly ups and downs
In Q4 2020, the fastest-growing jobs in the CJoF Index were:
Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+249.5%)
Home Health Aide (+156.5%)
Solar Engineer (+131.9%)
Sustainability Specialist (+126.1%)
Genetic Counselor (+123.3%)
Jobs that posted the largest declines for the quarter were:
Solar Installer (-22.4%)
Alternative Energy Manager (-20.8%)
Fashion Designer (-10.4%)
Surveillance Officer/Investigator (-4.6%)
Career Counselor (-2.1%)
Annual ups and downs
The fastest-growing jobs in the CJoF Index for the year ending with Q1 2021 were:
Solar Engineer (+263.3%)
Genetic Counselor (+123.3%)
Registered Nurse (+81.0%)
Solar Installer (+49.1%)
Sustainability Specialist (+39.0%)
Jobs that posted the largest declines during this period were:
Career Counselor (-57.2%)
Fashion Designer (-42.3%)
Health Information Manager/Director (-35.4%)
Alternative Energy Manager (-34.5%)
We encourage you to review our overall index on a regular basis, as these COVID-19-driven shocks continue to alter the landscape of jobs of the future — and jobs of the now. Visit our Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index page to see the most up-to-date data and analysis.
Robert Hoyle Brown is a Vice President in Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and drives strategy and market outreach for Cognizant’s Business Process Services business unit. He is also a regular contributor to the CFoW blog. Prior to joining Cognizant, he was Managing Vice President of the Business and Applications Services team at Gartner, and as a research analyst, he was a recognized subject matter expert in BPO, cloud services/BPaaS and HR services. Robert also held roles at Hewlett-Packard and G2 Research, a boutique outsourcing research firm in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and, prior to his graduation, attended the London School of Economics as a Hansard Scholar. He can be reached at Robert.H.Brown@cognizant.com
Career Development Perspectives- Individual versus Organizational Needs
An individual’s personal initiatives that they pursue for their career development are primarily concerned with their personal values, goals, interests, and the path required to fulfill these desires. A degree of control and sense of urgency over a personal career development path can require an individual to pursue additional education or training initiatives to align with their goals.
In relation, John L. Holland’s 6 career anchors categorizes people to be investigative, realistic, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional, in which the career path will depend on the characteristic that an individual may embody. The more aware an individual is of their personality type, the better alignment of career development and opportunities they may obtain.
The factors that influence an individual to make proper career goal decisions also relies on the environmental factors that are directly affecting them. Decisions are based on varying aspects affecting work-life balance, desires to align career options with their personal values, and the degree of stimulation or growth.
A corporate organization can be sufficient in providing career development opportunities through the Human Resources functions of Training and Development.The primary purpose of Training and Development is to ensure that the strategic planning of the organizational goals will remain adaptable to the demands of a changing environment.
Upon recruiting and hiring employees, an organization’s Human Resource department is responsible for providing clear job descriptions regarding the job tasks at hand required for the role, along with the opportunities of job rotation, transfers, and promotions. Hiring managers are responsible for ensuring that the subordinates are aware of their job tasks, and ensure the flow of communication remains efficient.
In relation, managers are also responsible for nurturing and creating a favorable work environment to work in, to foster the long term learning, development, and talent acquisition of their subordinates. Consequently, the extent to which a manager embraces the delegation of training and developing their employees plays a key factor in the retention and turnover of employees
Driver., and Cooper, Michael J., and Ivan T. (1988). International review of industrial and organizational psychology. Los Angeles, CA: University of South California. pp. 245–277. ISBN0-471-91844-X.
McDonald., and Hite, Kimberly., and Linda (2016). Career development: a human resource development perspective. New York, New York: Oxfordshire, [England]: Routledge. pp. 2-4. ISBN9781138786127.
McDonald., and Hite, Kimberly., and Linda (2016). Career development: a human resource development perspective. New York, New York: Oxfordshire, [England]: Routledge. pp. 16-18. ISBN9781138786127.
McDonald., and Hite, Kimberly., and Linda (2016). Career development: a human resource development perspective. New York, New York: Oxfordshire, [England]: Routledge. pp. 20. ISBN9781138786127.
Driver., and Cooper, Michael J., and Ivan T. (1988). International review of industrial and organizational psychology. Los Angeles, CA: University of South California. pp. 245–277. ISBN0-471-91844-X.
McDonald., and Hite, Kimberly., and Linda (2016). Career development: a human resource development perspective. New York, New York: Oxfordshire, [England]: Routledge. pp. 20-21. ISBN9781138786127.
Barnett, R. C. and Hyde, J. S. 2001. “Women, Men, Work, and Family.” American Psychologist 56:781-796.Pope, M. (2009). Jesse Buttrick Davis (1871-1955): Pioneer of vocational guidance in the schools. Career Development Quarterly, 57, 278-288.
I had a budget on the day I looked up when my favorite outdoor venue would again open for concerts.Yes, I had a financial plan in place when I saw the words “Tame Impala rescheduled” and felt a memory flash of standing in a crowd listening to that same band, on that same stage.
Yes, though I have a financial accountability coach, I lost consciousness and came to 90 seconds later with a two-Tame-Impala-ticket-sized hole in my budget. Yes, I am concerned.
After this year of no — no festivals, no plays, no shopping in stores without concern for a deadly virus — “no you can’t” is slowly transforming, with 60 percent of adults in the US now having at least one dose of the vaccine, to “yes you can.” Many of us, regardless of disposable income levels, will and will and will, budgets be damned, if we don’t prepare for the powerful emotions about to swoop through our experience-deprived brains.
Our minds, it turns out, are not spreadsheets. That’s the idea behind behavioral economics, the fairly new field that studies how humans operate around this invention we call money. Unlike previous thinking from the field of economics, our decisions don’t come from formulas, but a mishmash of the feelings, reactions, and mental shortcuts whittled by evolution to keep us alive in the wild, within small tribes, without consideration for targeted Instagram ads for peep-toe espadrilles.
Behavioral economics has identified more than 100 ways people of all financial backgrounds fail to think straight when it comes to money. And as the pandemic shifts in the US, our thinking is about to get much blurrier. Our minds, it turns out, are not spreadsheets
One reigning factor that stands out as a determinant of how we behave is where we fall on the spectrum of cold state to hot state. Ever been hangry? That’s a hot state. Seen a thirst trap? Hot state. It’s when emotions like fear or exhaustion take over.
“What has been building up for a year and what is about to be released is an enormous amount of pressure,” said Brooke Struck, research director at the Decision Lab, a behavioral design think tank. “We are all about to enter a massive hot state, more or less at the same time.”
Hot states aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They can be, as Struck describes them, some of the richest experiences we have. They’re intense and powerful, and they exacerbate other biases. They reduce us to something less like adults and more like toddlers.
“If you think you can talk yourself out of a hot state,” said Struck, “you don’t understand a hot state.”
In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, he describes our cold, higher thinking as slow thinking, and the hot thinking I did (or didn’t do) before buying those tickets as fast thinking. They’re not discrete, explains Struck, but a wrestling match inside our brains.
“That’s where humanity lives. We’re all struggling with these two things at the same time, all the time,” he said. “So when you see those tickets, what comes to mind is this extremely vivid, positive memory of having been in that place and having that experience … you just have this overwhelming desire of I want.”
The tsunami of want that’s about to crash over us as the country reopens is going to be, as Struck says, very dangerous for our budgets. The hot states will strike intensely, perhaps set off by songs, smells, or the sight of a cafe where you used to meet up for lunch with the friends you haven’t hugged in a year. He talks about it as though we’re all about to get very drunk, and the only thing we can do is make sure we put away the sharp objects ahead of time.
A drunk person, for example, isn’t known to carefully consider the future repercussions of their actions. Similarly, hot states exacerbate our present bias, which makes us overvalue what we have now and devalue what that stranger known as us in the future will have, a trait familiar to anyone with vacation credit card debt.
If you think this doesn’t apply to you and you’ll be fine, that could be your restraint bias talking, the bias that makes you overestimate your ability to resist impulsive behavior. If you think that because you’ve been so good, perhaps by spending an entire year wearing your mask and forgoing public displays of Bon Jovi karaoke, you deserve to be a little bad now, that’s moral licensing. It’s the bias that serves as a little devil on your shoulder, convincing you you’re still doing good, even if you sin just a bit.
You might want to watch out for the bandwagon effect, where you jump into the Roaring Reopening spending just because all the cool kids are doing it, in your real friend group and in the groups you just watch on your social media feeds. Worse, there won’t be a designated financial driver among us, because though our experiences have varied widely, with many Americans continuing to work in public during lockdown, chances are that nearly everyone you know will have some kind of wild emotions about the opportunity to gather in a bar booth, enjoy a funny movie in a sea of IRL laughter, or dance in a laser-light crowd of fellow humans.
(Though of course, there will be some who are so traumatized by the last year that they’ll hold on to everything they have, the same way Nana saves the used Glad Press’n Seal bits because of how she was shaped by the Great Depression.) But we can work with these biases, says Amanda Clayman, financial therapist and host of Financial Therapy. We just have to understand them first. “With awareness comes an opportunity for self-agency,” she says.
Biases didn’t evolve to trip us up. They originally came about to help us. “Just the idea of a cognitive ‘bias,’ I think it’s a bit pejorative. It’s a shortcut. And when we call it a bias, it’s just us identifying where we consistently run into problems,” Clayman told me. “I think we should have as much affection and humor for these cognitive biases as we can.”
One of these mental shortcuts we can admire like a bumbling toddler is our availability bias: the illusion that the more we see something, the more likely it is to occur, and the less we see something, the scarcer it is. The scarcer we sense something is, the higher we value it.
“Our sense of availability has been really reset. You acted as if a concert ticket is completely scarce because your availability heuristic has been reset around when something is going to be an option,” said Clayman. “Our entire sense of what is available when and what is normal has been skewed by this experience.”
You know who has studied your biases? Marketers. And they know exactly where to poke them. Clayman adds that capitalist society trains us from an early age to think that if we have a negative feeling, we can find a product to fix it. We’re all going to be tempted to “solve” the trauma of the last year, as if a wild night at Target on the credit card could cheer us right up after living through a plague that’s killed more than 3 million people and continues to rage in many parts of the world.
She says that what we’ll really need is human connection, safe spaces to talk about what we’ve gone through, and the uncomfortable experience of sitting with our feelings. Without processing the emotions of the last year, we’ll just try to shovel fun, novelty, and pleasure into the pit, and the expense is going to add up before we realize it’s not working.
Natasha Knox, a certified financial planner and chair of business development for the Financial Therapy Association, says to listen for the moral licensing words, “I deserve it because …” It might be because you’ve been through so much or you’ve worked so hard.
“This sort of permission-giving has truth to it. It is true, collectively we have been through a lot and many people do work really hard,” said Knox. “You’re not wrong. You do deserve it. But then there’s future you. What does that person deserve?”
In order to reconnect and enjoy a bit more freedom while also protecting your future self, start setting aside some cash now that is, as Knox describes it, “safe to spend” without putting yourself in financial danger. Then create some cooling space between you and spending. Unsubscribe from all those sale emails. Turn off one-click pay. Don’t save your credit card in your web browser. Try to wait 24 hours before buying something unplanned. Most importantly, keep close the deeper reasons you don’t want to go financially wild (whatever that means to you) over the next few months, in addition to simply not causing yourself more stress and chaos.
“It really does have to boil down to that first, because if we’re just denying ourselves for no reason, that’s not sustainable and it usually doesn’t work,” said Knox. “The bigger why has to be front and center. Because it’s hard, and it’s been a terrible year.”
She recommends finding a photo that represents something you’re working toward getting a year to a few years out and making that your phone’s home screen or otherwise keeping it close. “When something has been as dramatic as this year, the longer-term picture gets a little fuzzy,” Knox said, “So we have to bring that back into focus.”
Like biases, spending itself is not a bad thing. I’m happy to support the venue, the band, and even, if they open in time, Scott and Cindi, the owners of the nearby private campground, whom I’ve been worried about because I watched their business grow for so many years. This is an inextricable truth: Our spending is part of what will alleviate the Covid-19-inflicted financial suffering of our fellow humans. Consumer spending constitutes about 70 percent of the GDP, after all. So I’ll spend, but, knowing what I know now, I’ll spend as slowly as I can, at places I care about, tentatively finding ways to enjoy the new normal, and without causing another crisis for myself.
Paulette Perhach writes about creativity, finances, tech, psychology, and anything else that inspires awe for places like the New York Times, Elle, and Glamour. She posts regularly at WelcomeToTheWritersLife.com.
Financial therapy merges finance with emotional support to help people cope with financial stress. Financial advisors must often provide therapy to clients in order to help them make logical monetary decisions and deal with any financial issues they might be facing.
Breaking Down Financial Therapy
Money plays a large role in a person’s overall well-being, and the stresses of managing money and dealing with financial pitfalls can take a huge toll on one’s emotional health. If left uncontrolled, this emotional burden can spread into other areas of a person’s life. Just as with any other form of therapy that addresses other aspects of a person’s life, financial therapy provides support and advice geared specifically toward the financial realm and the stresses that go along with it. The end goal is to get a person’s finances in order and provide the necessary advice to keep them in order.
Financial Therapy Reasoning
There are a range of reasons why a person would seek out or need financial therapy. In many cases, behavioral issues cause a person to adapt unhealthy financial routines, including unhealthy spending habits (such as gambling or compulsive shopping), overworking oneself to hoard money, completely avoiding financial issues that must be dealt with, or hiding finances from a partner. Often, bad saving, spending, or working habits are a symptom of other bad habits related to mental or physical health.
Financial Therapy vs. Other Types of Therapy
The most effective forms of financial therapy involve a collaboration between a person’s financial advisor and a licensed therapist or specialist. Both the financial advisor and the therapist have unique qualifications that the other does not possess. Because of this, it’s hard for one to provide complete financial therapy support, and trying to do so could potentially steer a person in the wrong direction and violate ethical codes. However, financial advisors often find themselves providing informal therapy to clients, and therapists often deal with emotional issues related to financial stress.
Financial advisors are well-versed on their clients’ specific situations and are able to advise on the best courses of action. They’re able to share their expertise in the hopes of alleviating the financial burdens their clients face. However, therapy is not a financial advisor’s area of expertise, and if a person requires real emotional support or needs help breaking bad habits, a licensed professional should be involved. The financial advisor tends to be more adept at providing advice on how best to move forward with financial issues, while the licensed professional can provide support that gets to the root of a deeper problem.
A wealth psychologist is a mental health professional who specializes in issues relating specifically to wealthy individuals. Issues can include feelings of guilt and raising children in a wealthy household.
A year ago, as the pandemic ravaged country after country and economies shuddered, consumers were the ones panic-buying. Today, on the rebound, it’s companies furiously trying to stock up. Mattress producers to car manufacturers to aluminum foil makers are buying more material than they need to survive the breakneck speed at which demand for goods is recovering and assuage that primal fear of running out. The frenzy is pushing supply chains to the brink of seizing up. Shortages, transportation bottlenecks and price spikes are nearing the highest levels in recent memory, raising concern that a supercharged global economy will stoke inflation.
Copper, iron ore and steel. Corn, coffee, wheat and soybeans. Lumber, semiconductors, plastic and cardboard for packaging. The world is seemingly low on all of it. “You name it, and we have a shortage on it,” Tom Linebarger, chairman and chief executive of engine and generator manufacturer Cummins Inc., said on a call this month. Clients are “trying to get everything they can because they see high demand,” Jennifer Rumsey, the Columbus, Indiana-based company’s president, said.“They think it’s going to extend into next year.”
The difference between the big crunch of 2021 and past supply disruptions is the sheer magnitude of it, and the fact that there is — as far as anyone can tell — no clear end in sight. Big or small, few businesses are spared. Europe’s largest fleet of trucks, Girteka Logistics, says there’s been a struggle to find enough capacity. Monster Beverage Corp. of Corona, California, is dealing with an aluminum can scarcity. Hong Kong’s MOMAX Technology Ltd. is delaying production of a new product because of a dearth of semiconductors.
Further exacerbating the situation is an unusually long and growing list of calamities that have rocked commodities in recent months. A freak accident in the Suez Canal backed up global shipping in March. Drought has wreaked havoc upon agricultural crops. A deep freeze and mass blackout wiped out energy and petrochemicals operations across the central U.S. in February. Less than two weeks ago, hackers brought down the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., driving gasoline prices above $3 a gallon for the first time since 2014. Now India’s massive Covid-19 outbreak is threatening its biggest ports.
For anyone who thinks it’s all going to end in a few months, consider the somewhat obscure U.S. economic indicator known as the Logistics Managers’ Index. The gauge is built on a monthly survey of corporate supply chiefs that asks where they see inventory, transportation and warehouse expenses — the three key components of managing supply chains — now and in 12 months. The current index is at its second-highest level in records dating back to 2016, and the future gauge shows little respite a year from now. The index has proven unnervingly accurate in the past, matching up with actual costs about 90% of the time.
To Zac Rogers, who helps compile the index as an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s College of Business, it’s a paradigm shift. In the past, those three areas were optimized for low costs and reliability. Today, with e-commerce demand soaring, warehouses have moved from the cheap outskirts of urban areas to prime parking garages downtown or vacant department-store space where deliveries can be made quickly, albeit with pricier real estate, labor and utilities.
Once viewed as liabilities before the pandemic, fatter inventories are in vogue. Transport costs, more volatile than the other two, won’t lighten up until demand does. “Essentially what people are telling us to expect is that it’s going to be hard to get supply up to a place where it matches demand,” Rogers said, “and because of that, we’re going to continue to see some price increases over the next 12 months.” More well-known barometers are starting to reflect the higher costs for households and companies. An index of U.S. consumer prices that excludes food and fuel jumped in April from a month earlier by the most since 1982. At the factory gate, the increase in prices charged by American producers was twice as large as economists expected. Unless companies pass that cost along to consumers and boost productivity, it’ll eat into their profit margins.
A growing chorus of observers are warning that inflation is bound to quicken. The threat has been enough to send tremors through world capitals, central banks, factories and supermarkets. The U.S. Federal Reserve is facing new questions about when it will hike rates to stave off inflation — and the perceived political risk already threatens to upset President Joe Biden’s spending plans.“You bring all of these factors in, and it’s an environment that’s ripe for significant inflation, with limited levers” for monetary authorities to pull, said David Landau, chief product officer at BluJay Solutions, a U.K.-based logistics software and services provider.
Policy makers, however, have laid out a number of reasons why they don’t expect inflationary pressures to get out of hand. Fed Governor Lael Brainard said recently that officials should be “patient through the transitory surge.” Among the reasons for calm: The big surges lately are partly blamed on skewed comparisons to the steep drops of a year ago, and many companies that have held the line on price hikes for years remain reticent about them now. What’s more, U.S. retail sales stalled in April after a sharp rise in the month earlier, and commodities prices have recently retreated from multi-year highs.
Caught in the crosscurrents is Dennis Wolkin, whose family has run a business making crib mattresses for three generations. Economic expansions are usually good for baby bed sales. But the extra demand means little without the key ingredient: foam padding. There has been a run on the kind of polyurethane foam Wolkin uses — in part because of the deep freeze across the U.S. South in February, and because of “companies over-ordering and trying to hoard what they can.”
“It’s gotten out of control, especially in the past month,” said Wolkin, vice president of operations at Atlanta-based Colgate Mattress, a 35-employee company that sells products at Target stores and independent retailers. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”Though polyurethane foam is 50% more expensive than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, Wolkin would buy twice the amount he needs and look for warehouse space rather than reject orders from new customers. “Every company like us is going to overbuy,” he said. Even multinational companies with digital supply-management systems and teams of people monitoring them are just trying to cope. Whirlpool Corp. CEO Marc Bitzer told Bloomberg Television this month its supply chain is “pretty much upside down” and the appliance maker is phasing in price increases. Usually Whirlpool and other large manufacturers produce goods based on incoming orders and forecasts for those sales. Now it’s producing based on what parts are available.
“It is anything but efficient or normal, but that is how you have to run it right now,” Bitzer said. “I know there’s talk of a temporary blip, but we do see this elevated for a sustained period.” The strains stretch all the way back to global output of raw materials and may persist because the capacity to produce more of what’s scarce — with either additional capital or labor — is slow and expensive to ramp up. Read more…..
By Brendan Murray, Enda Curran, Kim Chipman, Bloomberg
You would never know how terrible the past year has been for many Americans by looking at Wall Street, which has been going gangbusters since the early days of the pandemic.
“On the streets, there are chants of ‘Stop killing Black people!’ and ‘No justice, no peace!’ Meanwhile, behind a computer, one of the millions of new day traders buys a stock because the chart is quickly moving higher,” wrote Chris Brown, the founder and managing member of the Ohio-based hedge fund Aristides Capital in a letter to investors in June 2020. “The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming at times.”
The market was temporarily shaken in March 2020, as stocks plunged for about a month at the outset of the Covid-19 outbreak, but then something strange happened. Even as hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, millions of people were laid off and businesses shuttered, protests against police violence erupted across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the outgoing president refused to accept the outcome of the 2020 election — supposedly the market’s nightmare scenario — for weeks, the stock market soared. After the jobs report from April 2021 revealed a much shakier labor recovery might be on the horizon, major indexes hit new highs.
The disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street, between corporate CEOs and the working class, has perhaps never felt so stark. How can it be that food banks are overwhelmed while the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits an all-time high? For a year that’s been so bad, it’s been hard not to wonder how the stock market could be so good.
To the extent that there can ever be an explanation for what’s going on with the stock market, there are some straightforward financial answers here. The Federal Reserve took extraordinary measures to support financial markets and reassure investors it wouldn’t let major corporations fall apart.
Congress did its part as well, pumping trillions of dollars into the economy across multiplereliefbills. Turns out giving people money is good for markets, too. Tech stocks, which make up a significant portion of the S&P 500, soared. And with bond yields so low, investors didn’t really have a more lucrative place to put their money.
To put it plainly, the stock market is not representative of the whole economy, much less American society. And what it is representative of did fine.“No matter how many times we keep on saying the stock market is not the economy, people won’t believe it, but it isn’t,” said Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist. “The stock market is about one piece of the economy — corporate profits — and it’s not even about the current or near-future level of corporate profits, it’s about corporate profits over a somewhat longish horizon.”
Still, those explanations, to many people, don’t feel fair. Investors seem to have remained inconceivably optimistic throughout real turmoil and uncertainty. If the answer to why the stock market was fine is basically that’s how the system works, the follow-up question is: Should it?
“Talking about the prosperous nature of the stock market in the face of people still dying from Covid-19, still trying to get health care, struggling to get food, stay employed, it’s an affront to people’s actual lived experience,” said Solana Rice, the co-founder and co-executive director of Liberation in a Generation, which pushes for economic policies that reduce racial disparities. “The stock market is not representative of the makeup of this country.”
Inequality is not a new theme in the American economy. But the pandemic exposed and reinforced the way the wealthy and powerful experience what’s happening so much differently than those with less power and fewer means — and force the question of how the prosperity of those at the top could be better shared with those at the bottom. There are certainly ideas out there, though Wall Street might not like them.
How the stock market boomed when American life soured
Many on Wall Street, like many people in America, were in denial about the realities of Covid-19 when it first began to take hold internationally in early 2020. In an interview with Vox last April, CNBC host Jim Cramer recalled wondering whether “another shoe will drop on this coronavirus outbreak” in early February, only to see stocks keep rising steadily. “But nothing happened. The market kept quiet,” Cramer told Vox. Indeed, stocks continued to reach record highs.
While stocks often rise slowly, they also fall fast. And once Wall Street caught on to the realities Covid-19 might bring, the market tumbled, wiping off some 30 percent of its value from mid-February to mid-March. “No one had any idea of what the future was going to be, how deep this is, how long it would be, how wide it would be,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
The S&P 500 bottomed out on March 23, just a week into New York’s shutdown, and after that, it made a remarkably strong recovery, month after month.
Most analysts and experts point to the Fed as the most important factor in supporting market confidence. The central bank announced a series of big measures to help support the economy and markets in March 2020, including saying that it would buy both investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds (basically, debt that is risky and debt that is not).
“Not dissimilar to the global financial crisis, the Fed stepped in, and that was really a catalyst for a stock market recovery,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco. “The Fed can be very, very powerful, almost omnipotent, when it comes to the stock market.”
Throughout the crisis, the Fed and Chair Jay Powell have made clear they will support markets and use every tool in their toolkit to do it. Powell has taken an extremely dovish tone and repeatedly said the Fed won’t raise interest rates — which would presumably slow down the economy and markets — preemptively. Basically, the markets let the Fed take the wheel.
Even if it didn’t buy bonds itself, the knowledge that it would if necessary reinforced the markets — private investors swept in to take up corporate bond offerings from companies such as Boeing and Nike. Continued confidence in a dovish Fed has only reinforced market bullishness; while a bad jobs report may be bad for businesses and workers, to investors, it’s also more reassurance that low interest rates aren’t going anywhere.
The issue is, the Fed is a much more powerful force on Wall Street than it is Main Street. Its programs to help small and midsize businesses and states and cities have been far less effective than those set up to help corporations and asset prices.
“It now feels like policy, be it the Fed or something else, that the stock market should really never go down,” said Dan Egan, vice president of behavioral finance and investing at Betterment.
To be sure, the Fed’s role is monetary policy, and it would have been bad if markets were allowed to crash or a litany of major corporations went bankrupt. And luckily for many struggling people and businesses, Congress stepped in with fiscal policy that could be more effective in helping the broader economy — a move that, no doubt, also helped markets. It’s good for corporations that people have money to spend.
Still, some wonder whether the Fed couldn’t have tried to go further to make sure its programs to support corporations flow to people other than shareholders. “Obviously it was good, the Fed needed to do something,” said Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform. “But the criticism I would weigh was that there were no real conditions that workers were protected or rehired, that all the gains just didn’t go to the top.”
Goldstein pointed to a September report from the House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that found the Fed bought corporate bonds from at least 95 companies that issued dividends to shareholders while also laying off workers. “Surely the Fed is also so powerful that it can say, look, we need you all to prioritize rehiring your workers or we’re not necessarily going to rescue you, we’re going to rescue other companies, and that should be impactful,” Goldstein said.
Companies have been ruled by the mantra of shareholder primacy, where maximizing profits for investors is the end-all, be-all, for decades. Worker pay has severely lagged gains in productivity. Those trends were unlikely to change during a pandemic.
“Shareholder primacy means the job of corporations is to increase their share prices for this very small elite, and that means downward pressure on costs, including workers, where possible,” said Lenore Palladino, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “The fact that the stock market is booming is because of the financialization of our goods- and services-producing companies, not because the real economy is doing so well.”
The market felt better about the pandemic than you probably did
Jack Ablin, the founding partner of Cresset Capital, recalls calling clients in the spring of 2020 and telling them they didn’t know how long the lockdowns and virus would last, but they were “confident” that within a year, it would be done. “Of course, it wasn’t,” he told Vox. But the general attitude remains: The markets figured things would get better, sooner or later. “Part of it was saying, look, this is temporary, we will eventually get back to business. So we were trying to look past the valley to the other side of normality.”
Not everything had to break in Wall Street’s favor for the market rally to continue — as mentioned, between the Fed and the future promise of corporate profits, investors had plenty of reasons to be confident — but it doesn’t hurt that it kind of did. The vaccine, which at the outset of the pandemic some experts warned might be years away, appeared by the end of 2020. Donald Trump did not want to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, which some investors feared would spark chaos before voting day, but by and large, the US saw a peaceful transfer of power (with the exception of a riot at the Capitol, that, while disturbing, didn’t have anything to do with the Dow).
Investors also seemed confident that Congress would come through with more fiscal support for the economy. This, too, was not a given. The $900 billion package passed in the lame-duck session in December for months seemed highly unlikely. Had Democrats not taken both US Senate seats in Georgia, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law in March, would not have happened. While neither provided direct support to the markets, they did support the broader economy that the markets have for months been bullish on. Putting money in people’s pockets means they’ll spend it. It’s good for Wall Street that Main Street America doesn’t fail.
Some people in the industry point to a certain level of faith in America, like the type legendary investor Warren Buffett channeled during the financial crisis and Great Recession when he told people to “buy American.”
“You have to have an existential faith in America in order to be in stocks over the long term,” said Nick Colas, the co-founder of DataTrek Research.
“What has happened in the last 14 months or so is we’re believing in America again, we’re believing in our companies,” said Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets. “From every bear market and every depression, we transition from despair to hope, and the hope was defined by American companies.”
“There are two lessons to be learned over the past year. The first is that economic headlines are lagging and not leading indicators of the market; and second, market timing is a losers’ game,” said Saira Malik, chief investment officer of global equities at Nuveen, an asset manager.
Nuveen is currently interested in emerging markets for potential investment possibilities on the horizon — including countries such as Brazil, which continues to be ravaged by the pandemic. “We do feel like in the near term they are going to struggle. But the vaccines are becoming more and more available, and while they’re lagging a bit behind, we do think they’ll catch up, and they’ve tended to have the cheaper valuations to go with that,” Malik said.
At this point, it’s hard to wonder what, if anything, will truly unnerve investors.
There are still plenty of risks to the market, including that in the US, President Joe Biden and Democrats may take steps to raise taxes that would mean a hit for the bottom lines of corporations and investors. When chatter of the president’s capital gains tax proposal kicked up in late April, the markets took a small dip, but it was hardly catastrophic.
“We have an administration that clearly has ambitions and wants to pay for them by taxing capital, taxing corporate profits, now taxing capital gains. The resilience of the market in the face of all that is kind of interesting,” Krugman said. “There may be a little bit of determined resilience; there may be some element of when people are determined to be optimistic, facts don’t matter.”
Hooper, from Invesco, offered up the explanation of the Fed. “I do think on a short-term basis, we could see a sell-off if there is a risk that appears imminent, but we have to recognize that all current risks are being cushioned by this incredibly accommodative Fed, which does have an impact. It’s a powerful upward force on stocks that can counteract the downward forces.”
What the stock market does and doesn’t represent
How the stock market does matters to a lot of people. A little over half of all Americans report owning stocks, including in their retirement or pension plans. And during the pandemic, plenty of people got into day trading, for better and for worse. But some groups have much higher stakes in the market than others. More than 80 percent of stocks are owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, meaning when markets go up, they’re the ones who reap the most gains. White people are also the overwhelming majority of market beneficiaries — by Palladino’s estimates, 92 percent of corporate equity and mutual fund value is owned by white households, compared to less than 2 percent each by Black and Hispanic households.
“People often forget how concentrated corporate equity holdings are,” Palladino said. “They’re held mainly by wealthy white households.” Those are the people who disproportionately reaped the benefits of the stock market’s pandemic run, while people of color disproportionately suffered the health and economic consequences of the disease.
If the US wants to create a fairer, less extractive economy where corporations and shareholders aren’t living a very different reality than people trying to pay their rent or find a job, there are ways to do it. The federal government could raise corporate taxes and tax income from investments in the same way it does income from labor and seek to rein in CEO pay.
It could also clamp down on shareholder primacy and make sure companies base their decisions not only on making their investors rich but also on the well-being of their workers, customers, communities, and suppliers. In 2019, the Business Roundtable, a major business lobbying group, issued a statement that it would redefine the “purpose of a corporation” as one that fosters “an economy that serves all Americans.” The government and the public could find ways to hold them to it. Palladino, in her work, has outlined a number of proposals that would curb shareholder primacy, including requiring corporate boards to have worker representatives, banning stock buybacks, and boosting unions.
Beyond policy fixes, there’s also just the reality that the market measures very one specific thing — how investors think (rightly or wrongly) corporate profits are going to be in the future. And for many people, that measure is meaningless. “If you can assess that the economy is good when we’re in one of the worst economic moments of American history, then it’s a useless measure,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, co-executive director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy.
The past year has been a truly wild ride in America and for the stock market, though in different directions. Investors are reaching almost exuberant levels, from the GameStop saga to the crypto craze. Stocks are continuing their bull run, with no clear end in sight. There are plenty of warnings that investors are out over their skis, but then again, there always are.
It’s a far cry from a little over a year ago, when billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman went on TV to warn that “hell is coming” because of Covid-19. Or maybe it did — just not for Wall Street.
With the pandemic easing, it’s time for businesses to square their shoulders and aggressively move toward a digital-first strategy, says Paul Roehrig, Head of Strategy at Cognizant Digital Business & Technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken millions of lives and triggered trillions of dollars’ worth of economic wreckage. And while news regarding vaccines is encouraging, now is not the time for the world to turn its back on safety measures proven to help slow the spread of the virus.
Nevertheless, vaccines are taking hold at various rates worldwide, and there is every reason to believe the grip the coronavirus has held on the world for over a year is easing.
Early in the crisis, we explored steps businesses should take to eventually emerge from the pandemic in a strong position. We believe that advice has held up, and that now is the time for forward-looking companies to accelerate digital initiatives.
Eight ways to catalyze post-crisis gains:
A year ago, “becoming digital” was seen by many as a desirable elective, but now — in our new world — it’s mandatory. The most common questions from business leaders from every industry and region have been: “I get the theory, but where do I start? What specific steps can I take today to ensure a healthy tomorrow?” These eight critical tactics will help:
1) Modernize data
It’s more important than ever to turn data from a liability into an asset. Companies that haven’t gotten control of their data are already behind, and the new economy will make it harder to recover. It’s no longer justifiable to pay to maintain terabytes (or more) of data and then not use it for business outcomes.
Improving decisions and experiences — and growth — with applied intelligence is infinitely more difficult (or impossible) without data that is relevant, accessible, secure and used to improve decisions or customer experiences. A data audit — figuring out what data is available, being accessed and for what purpose — was a no-regret decision 13 months ago. Now it’s a condition for survival.
2) Unshackle from legacy applications
Roughly $3 trillion of economic value per day still runs on COBOL. That’s a staggering reliance on a programming language dating back to 1959. Going forward, business pressures will make it unsustainable to be trapped by this heritage software. Consumer relevance, faster time-to-market and cost savings have never been more important.
Many companies feel trapped by their legacy software, but there are new tools, processes, engineering methods and partners to help unlock value that is trapped in data centers. The first step is a complete software audit to understand which applications make the most sense to modernize, which should be left alone and which can be turned off.
3) Modernize how employees work
Remember going into an office? Getting on a train? The TSA pat-down? We’ll do all that again, but ideas and practices about how we work together will never be the same. The pandemic shock accelerates the imperative to be able to work from an office, the home, the car, the … well, anywhere! Today’s employees seek the same high-quality experience as a consumer using the best software.
Old, difficult-to-use interfaces and systems hinder how employees interact and collaborate, and store and exchange information. Seamless, secure connections across web, mobile, voice, collaboration systems, platforms and processes have made great strides during lockdowns. We aren’t going backward, so the time is now to extend the modern employee experience.
4) Modernize consumer experiences
In just a few painful weeks in 2020, elegant, secure, scalable online content and commerce went from critical to essential for every consumer-facing industry. Content has always been important, but with more transactions online, the ability to deliver that content to the right person, at the right time, in any place, via any device, via beautiful software is now and forever a business imperative.
Regardless of industry, expectations for engagement have shifted. The immediate reaction for too many businesses was to throw cash at front-end consumer-facing apps. A better bet is to take a step back and understand how the lifecycle of demand can be changed longer-term. That starts with deeply understanding how human wants and needs are likely to unfold in line with specific products and services.
5) Engineer software for the new economy
Every modern business needs software that can be built quickly and scaled effectively to deliver modern (human-first) experiences across the value chain for employees, partners and customers. It’s not necessary to be better at software engineering than Google or Microsoft, but it is necessary for every company to become more software-centric.
Tools, engineering methods and technologies already exist to help an enterprise become a better bank, a better insurer, a better retailer. This requires rethinking how core IT teams are structured, how they work and how they are incented, plus reevaluating the partner ecosystem critical to the business. Every major company is building software all the time, but it’s now time to explore new methods. Starting small can show near-term progress while mitigating risk.
6) Virtualize core work
The total impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will take years to become clear. However, one irrefutable shift is the new requirement for companies to modernize core process work. Middle- and back-office work that is slow, labor-intensive, expensive, opaque and unchanging is no longer allowable. Nearly every organization we know of can improve supply chain management, HR, finance and industry-specific process work.
Notably, the pandemic unlocked virtualized medical care as medical workers used technology to provide at-home solutions or even in-hospital solutions more safely and effectively. And that’s just one example. Automation, applied intelligence and worker enhancement have all moved from “helpful” to “critical” during the COVID crisis. Now is the time to begin exploring which points on the value chain make the most sense to modernize today.
7) Modernize the cloud foundation
For years, IT has been chipping away at costs by moving work to service providers and pushing centralized computer loads to the cloud, but that was really just Phase One. The unprecedented economic downturn has shone a spotlight on how much more can be done, and how rapidly. Threadbare arguments against reducing IT costs — e.g., by more aggressively moving into the cloud, deploying cost-effective software-as-a-service platforms, reducing operating costs of non-core work – must be overruled. We recommend a pivoting from, “What can we move into the cloud?” to, “What can’t we move to the cloud?”
8) Make every space smart (and safe)
For years, sensor-enabling industrial equipment has improved productivity, reduced downtime and paved the way for more “as-a-service” business models. In the post-pandemic economy — as demand evolves and our expectations and concerns about staying safe in public spaces remain top of mind — nearly every company that operates in physical space will have to adopt the same philosophy.
COVID accelerated the development of technologies that assess occupant health and help us maintain safe distances, clean surfaces, etc. This takes a coordinated solution linking sensors, analytics and software. Business leaders must continue to be proactive in applying instrumentation, analytics and software engineering to make every space intelligent, less expensive to manage, more comfortable and safer.
Paul Roehrig is Head of Strategy for Cognizant Digital Business & Technology. He is the Founder and former Global Managing Director of the Center for The Future of Work at Cognizant. Along with Malcolm Frank and Ben Pring, he is a coauthor of What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data and Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business. Paul’s most recent work is Monster: A Tough Love Letter on Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future, which he co-authored with Ben Pring. He can be reached at Paul.Roehrig@cognizant.com.