What will life be like after the Covid-19 pandemic is a question that is likely to have crossed the minds of many.
A regional study “Asean Digital Generation Report: Pathway To Asean’s Inclusive Digital Transformation And Recovery” (Oct 2021) by the World Economic Forum and Singapore-based company Sea Ltd reveals that most people think the pandemic will last a long time and result in a very different world in the future.
Over 85,000 respondents between the ages of 16 and 35, from six Asean countries, were surveyed in the study, with 56% of the respondents being women and 10% business owners.
The majority (69%) of the respondents believe the pandemic will last beyond one year, with 13% having the opinion that it will never really disappear but we will “learn to live with it”. 64% of the respondents feel that if and when the pandemic does end, the world would be “very different”. Only a minority (4%) feel that things would return to the way they were before the pandemic.
Office administrator CK Han, 30, says that it’s unlikely that things will be the same even after the pandemic since “a lot of lives have been changed these past two years".
“Many people lost their livelihood during the lockdowns, some took on new careers. Even if the pandemic ends, it is unlikely that they'll return to what they used to know or do previously. The extended time at home brought some families closer while it caused others to grow apart, some also lost loved ones due to Covid-19. We don’t know if and when the pandemic will end, but survive we will and survive we must,” he says.
The respondents saw several things most likely to happen in the post-pandemic world with the top three being better health and hygiene globally (53%), a more caring society (more giving and helping others) (32%), and greater use of digital tools and technology (30%). The rest are stable economic growth (29%), better access to education opportunities (25%), more help to small businesses (24%), greater recognition of mental health issues (24%), building better social safety nets (22%), better tech governance (data security and handling misinformation) (15%), more cooperation between countries (15%), becoming a climate resilient, green economy (15%), building better infrastructure (including roads, trains and 5G) (9%), and more equal opportunities between genders (5%).
“Even though the Covid pandemic was devastating, at least there are some good effects coming out of it, like for example, when I dine out at an eatery now, at least the tables are wiped down and sanitised. People are more concerned about health and hygiene now. Previously, you’d be lucky if they remove the previous diners’ plates and utensils before you sit down!” says Adibah Ramli, 35, a school teacher. “Society has become more caring and willing to help others, even strangers, with the #KitaJagaKita movement, and I hope this community of caring continues even after the pandemic,” she adds.
“Malaysians have learnt how to queue and socially-distance and respect other’s personal space. Because of the Covid SOPs, you don’t find people pushing and shoving each other to get into public transport or an elevator,” says retail executive G. Mary Lakshmi, 24.
However, respondents share that they also have concerns about the post-pandemic world, including future economic/financial crises, pandemics, misinformation and environmental degradation.
According to the study, the pandemic will continue to have an impact both economically and mentally, especially on MSMEs and women.
The study also reveals that reskilling and upskilling is required in order for people to survive in the post-pandemic world. Respondents were surveyed on 13 skillsets that they feel would be most needed: technology use, creativity and innovation, self-discipline, resilience and adaptability, emotional intelligence and communication, language skills, global mindset, analytical and critical thinking, management and leadership, technology design, data analytics, art and design, and maths and science. The results reveal that the top five most important skillsets needed in the Asean region are: technology use (39%), creativity and innovation (38%), self-discipline (37%), resilience and adaptability (34%) and emotional intelligence and communication (28%), while in Malaysia, they are technology use (43%), self-discipline (40%), emotional intelligence and communication (30%), creativity and innovation (28%) and language skills (28%).
Most of the respondents (85%) also feel that digitalisation is important for the economic recovery of the country, especially in the areas of work/business, travel/ride-hailing, social networking, retail/groceries, payments, learning, finance, entertainment, and dining/ordering food. Respondents also felt that those who are more digitalised “are more economically resilient” during the pandemic.
However, there are several factors that prevent them from digitising their lives, including poor quality and/or expensive Internet (57%), poor quality and/or expensive devices (43%), concern about online security (41%), lack of digital skills or opportunity (29%), concerns about mental health and well-being (25%), and privacy (unwillingness to reveal data/personal details) (22%).
“During the MCOs, most people realised the importance of being digitalised because we had to do everything online – order food, buy items, pay bills, study or work, etc. Even my grandmother learnt to do everything online! But not everyone has access – there are those who either can’t afford to get a proper device or Internet data, while some live in remote areas where they have difficulties getting online due to lack of proper infrastructure,” says college student Mary Kalang, 19.