For the last 15 years the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, written in partnership with Marsh has been warning the world about the dangers of pandemics. COVID-19 has not only claimed millions of lives, but it also risks widened long standing health, economic and digital disparities. Billions of caregivers, workers and students especially minorities who were disadvantaged before the pandemic, could be at risk of missing pathways to the new and fairer societies that the recovery could unlock.
Globally the acceleration of the digital transformation as a result of the pandemic promises large benefits, for example the creation of almost 100 million new jobs by 2025. At the same time however, digitalization may displace some 85 million jobs, and since 60% of adults still lack basic digital skills the risk is the deepening of existing inequalities. It is also expected to expose businesses, and their customers, to significantly greater risk of cyber-attack, explains the agency.
Financial, digital and reputational pressures resulting from COVID-19 also threaten to leave behind many companies and their workforces in the markets of the future, creating potential disparities that could lead to societal fragmentation.
“When it comes to access to technology and digital skills, the fear is that the gap between the haves and the have nots could widen. Economic and societal fallout from COVID-19 will profoundly impact the way organizations interact with clients and colleagues long after any vaccine rollout. As businesses transform their workplaces, new vulnerabilities are emerging and rapid digitalization is exponentially increasing supply chain disruption and cyber exposures every business will need to strengthen and constantly review their strategies if they are to improve their resilience to future shocks,” said Christos Adamantiadis, CEO Marsh Middle East and Africa.
Cyber risk was identified by senior business leaders in the UAE as their biggest concern after COVID-19, with over 40% viewing it as a major risk to doing business.
Sheikh Khalifa, UAE President commented, “In 2020, the risk of a global pandemic became reality, something this report has been highlighting since 2006. As governments, businesses and societies begin to emerge from the pandemic, they have an opportunity to shape new economic and social systems that improve our collective resilience and offer the capacity to encourage greater inclusion, improve health and protect the planet. The UAE Government understands these challenges.”
“The pandemic has been a stress test that shook the foundations of economies and societies worldwide. Rebuilding resilience to systemic shocks will require significant funding, international cooperation and greater social cohesion; the UAE is well placed to achieve this as businesses adapt their operating and business models. Resilience will also hinge on the continued growth in connectivity, as we know that businesses that digitized early performed better in 2020,” concluded Mr Adamantiadis.