There are other upsides to maintaining efficient global supply chains, including providing access to a diverse range of products at an affordable cost. Governments will want to avoid intervening in nonessential sectors and resist lobbying that uses the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse for unnecessary protectionist measures.
It is also important that resilience plans be reflected in infrastructure priorities. Even before the crisis, the infrastructure investment gap was significant – predicted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to reach US$15t by 2040. But in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, there are concerns that a persistent lack of investment will threaten future growth, undermine our resilience to climate change and eventually reduce our quality of life. To help address these issues, new value-adding and strategically important projects can be prioritized, such as digital infrastructure, including broadband connectivity and 5G for mobile services, vertical farming, social housing, hospitals and care homes.
Workforce resilience is another vital consideration. The pandemic has demonstrated the value of “ready to go” reserve forces for health care, social care, delivery, transport and security. In the UK, final-year medical students graduated early, and National Health Service retirees invited back to work, to help treat the sick. But more workforce planning is needed to prepare for the next crisis. The use of predictive analytics and resource simulations — involving everyone from food producers, medical suppliers and health care providers, to defense, law enforcement and emergency-management agencies — will help ensure that delivery systems and infrastructure are response-ready. And, an agile approach will be required to shift resources and skills to where they are most needed.
Finally, the pandemic has shown us how reliant we all are on essential workers to feed and protect us in times of adversity. Paradoxically, while the status and risk involved with being a key worker have never been higher, low pay and lack of benefits continue to be hallmarks of these professions.
Physical safeguarding will be a basic priority, along with new reward structures, such as minimum living wages, bonuses, priority access to services and corporate discounts. Job quality and status should be center stage, along with stronger employment rights and policies to empower working people.