woods42_MAMYRAELAFP via Getty Images_covax Mamy Rael/AFP via Getty Images

The Key to the COVID-Powered Challenges of 2022

There will be no return to the status quo ante after COVID-19, because the pandemic has changed too many things. The challenge for the coming year is to move forward by redesigning and reimagining the domains of work, politics, public health, and economic policy.

OXFORD – After a year in which people longed to get back to “normal,” it is now clear that COVID-19 will not make this possible. The pandemic, now heading into its third year, has profoundly affected individuals, communities, countries, and international cooperation, creating four tough challenges for 2022. Rebuilding trust will be critical to confronting all of them.

The first challenge is that people’s relationship to work has changed. In some countries, lockdowns, the death of loved ones, and the general uncertainty of the pandemic have prompted or accelerated a rethink. In the United States, the number of workers quitting their jobs exceeded four million in each month from July to October 2021. Many young Chinese are joining the “lie flat” movement by opting out of long working hours, doing the bare minimum to get by, and striving for only what is absolutely essential for survival. The pandemic has deepened the divide between those who can work from home and the many who cannot.

In 2022, people need to trust that going back to work will genuinely improve their lives. Getting to that point will require action by both governments and companies. Investment to help remedy the disruption in education caused by COVID-19 is crucial. Some 1.6 billion students in 180 countries were kept out of school as a result of the pandemic. Establishing programs to help students catch up – and gain the skills and training needed for the twenty-first-century economy – will help them get better jobs.

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