Soothsaying for trades

A few of us may be enjoying this staycation, but my guess is most people are at the end of their tether. Even the wealthy, with enough personal space at home and enough provisions to tide over the apocalypse, are champing at the bit.

We await the coming of Monday, May 4. But we also know that it will not be business as usual. For one thing, masks will be mandatory and that in itself will be quite strange.

Even when the government allows a total return to normalcy, there will be self-imposed and business-imposed restrictions till a vaccine or antidote to this blight is found. And remember, we are still looking for a vaccine for the AIDS virus — I’m not sure on what basis we think we can find one for the coronavirus anytime soon.

I made a list of professions and trades to see in what way they would be affected from next month and to what extent. Let’s do this alphabetically.

Accountants are likely to see little change in the way they work, and won’t face a lack of demand. They can work from home easily and, indeed, the stereotype of the office accountant, stern and uncompromising, is such that their colleagues will prefer they work from home too. Actors will have a problem. Cinema halls are pretty much done for in the near term. Shoots are not going to happen and insurance for filmmaking will no longer be easy to get. Armed forces personnel will have it easier. They will probably be taken off training (which is what keeps them occupied for the most part) and given relatively easy work. Artists can work from home, but they will not be able to exhibit or display. This means that while production will not be affected, sales will be. Athletes can hang up their boots till a vaccine is found, while authors will continue from home as before.

The services of bartenders and beauticians will be desperately desired but will not be available. People will need to figure out how to do by themselves things that they got done at the parlour and much of this is not easy.


Carpenters will likely continue as usual, especially the self-employed because they can work solo either on-site or at home. Child care providers will see unprecedented demand, because parents will not want to send children to creches. Cafeteria workers (waiters, cashiers) have high-risk and unrewarding jobs. It is impossible for all food to only be sold through home delivery. At some point in the near future, restaurants must open. The workers will be in demand, but the job will be dangerous. It is likely that wages in this sector will go up soon. Chefs will take a hit, especially those at fancy places where the money is brought in by diners and not takeout. Construction workers and civil engineers will not be in demand. There will be little investment in new things with the world in turmoil.

Doctors will see very high demand and be at very high risk. Dentists not so much, because unless in severe pain patients will not want to expose themselves. Drivers, both at family and corporate level, will see a fall in demand in my opinion for obvious reasons.

Farmers and firefighters will not be affected. Florists and financial advisers face a collapse of demand. Graphic designers will not have a problem working on their own, but long-term demand for their output will certainly be low. Gynaecologists will face high demand (because fewer individuals will want to go through a generic process) and, of course, high-risk.

Human resources professionals will have their work cut out. There will be plenty of layoffs and salary cuts. But their job will also require them to look at things they are not trained to do — assessing the risk of business travel and formulating distancing policies for offices and shop floors. All new stuff.
Insurance agents will have a field day in the sense of plenty of people wanting their services. They hopefully will not need to have a field day in terms of getting around.

IT professionals will face a surge in demand. The moving of things in the virtual space and away from the physical has already accelerated. Bengaluru’s IT services companies were among the few exempted from the lockdown and reports say that a third of TCS, Infosys and Wipro staff were allowed to attend office.
Journalists face a serious crisis. Covid-19 has accelerated a process that was already in play. 

Advertising has moved away from mainstream media rapidly over the last decade, and both newspapers and television are receiving an increasingly smaller part of the overall pie. Many publications will not be able to survive the present crisis and a few have already shut operations.

Lawyers will face a slack in demand. Even if people require their services at the same level as before, which is unlikely, courts will not function as before, at least in the short term.

Marketing professionals will need to find new skills. The first thing that companies have cut is their advertising and marketing budget. Musicians, like artists, can work individually but can only sell to the collective. The decline of recorded music sales means that money comes largely from concerts, which are now over. Masseurs have stopped work.

Nurses will see an increase in pay. Covid-19 has no cure and is essentially treated by nursing. The nurse is as important here as, and possibly more important than, the doctor.

Policemen, postmen and priests are three groups that will need to figure out how to do their job differently and without too much exposure. Personal assistants and personal trainers who cannot do the job over video calls will be out of work. Psychiatrists and psychologists will do fine.

Salespersons, especially the door-to-door type, face decimation. The insistence that “outsiders” not be allowed into buildings and societies will be even more strongly expressed. Security guards will likely find both more work and more money, though not commensurate with the danger that they put themselves through for the rest of us.

Teachers will be in trouble, especially those not hired by the state. Parents will be loth to send their kids to schools without knowledge that the child is absolutely safe (meaning only when there is a vaccine). What happens till then? Nobody knows. Even if the Covid-19 mortality is only one per cent or less and even a tenth of that for the young, what parent would play Russian roulette with her child’s life?

Veterinarians will be sought after, particularly for home visits. Virology will be something that many will look on favourably as a training and profession. Even after Covid-19 goes away.

Zookeepers will be lonely. They will continue to have their animals to tend to, but nobody to come and see them.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel