Monday, May 10, 2021

Changes in the geography of work

In City Journal, Joel Kotkin and Richard Florida write,
The pandemic hit superstar cities like New York and London first and hardest. With their central business districts turned into ghost towns, big cities have suffered a blow from which they will need years to rebound. New York’s midtown and Wall Street still remain noticeably empty. Broadway theaters are still shuttered. San Francisco’s office district, home to many leading tech companies, stands similarly empty.
...But by far, the biggest hurdle facing superstar cities is major changes in the geography of work. The shift to remote work will endure. Before Covid, less than 5 percent of Americans worked from home; one-third are now doing so. Data on remote work differ based on the source, but according to research by Upwork’s Ozimek, roughly one-fifth of workers are likely to work from home full-time, with as many as 30 percent more working from home one or more days a week. Surveys suggest that as many as 40 percent of workers would like to work from home on a regular basis and that corporations are expecting as many as a quarter of their employees to do so.
Covid-19 has also focused America’s attention on its long-standing divisions of race and class. Though well-paid knowledge workers can work remotely, frontline service workers, many of them minorities, have been exposed to Covid in the workplace or have lost their jobs as the retail, hospitality, and tourist industries collapsed. Black Americans were infected at two and a half times the rate of whites and had nearly five times as many hospitalizations and twice as many deaths. Hispanics were infected at three times the rate of whites. For a recovery to be sustainable, it must be inclusive; it cannot be accomplished without economic growth as well as sensible political and social reform.
The United States needs less dependence on the federal government and a greater shift of power and resources to the local level. America is the opposite of a monolith. It is a mosaic of big cities and small cities, suburbs, and rural areas, each with different needs and challenges and each requiring different strategies for recovery after the pandemic. The approaches should include innovation, economic development, addressing persistent poverty, stimulating recovery in the hard-hit arts and cultural sector, upgrading and improving education (especially in urban centers), and improving services like roads, policing, and basic health and sanitation.
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