Let’s not go back to a past which wasn’t working anyway
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest news every morning.
This letter has been written as part of the Financial Times’ ‘Letters to the New World’ brand campaign, which calls on those in our global community to inspire each other around what this new world should and could look like
On the eve of the pandemic, generational warfare was in the air. Young people in a large number of countries had watched jobs become less secure, pensions less adequate and housing more expensive.
Some blamed older generations, who they felt had benefited from a system from which the young were now shut out. But when the pandemic hit, the generations did not go to war. They faced the virus together. Younger people complied with lockdowns to protect the lives of the old, at significant cost to their education, livelihoods and mental health.
The post-pandemic world must offer a new deal to the young. That means banning employment practices that leave people underpaid and insecure, and offering better pensions which share risk more fairly. It also means embracing economic changes the pandemic has already set in motion.
Over the past few decades, good quality jobs have become ever more concentrated in big cities around the world. This presented young people with an unenviable choice: rent a bedroom in a cramped and expensive city flat, or stay away and suffer the career consequences.
But coronavirus taught us that many white-collar jobs can be done remotely, at least part of the time. Policymakers should lean into this trend by improving digital infrastructure.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebalance the economy by allowing good jobs to spill out of pressure-cooker cities. The pandemic has made a new world of work possible. Let’s not go back to a past which wasn’t working anyway.
More from FT journalists
Expect the unexpected by Martin Wolf
Fakery is now everywhere by Paul Murphy
We now have the data by John Burn-Murdoch
A complete return to life as it was would be devastating by Pilita Clark
Brace yourself. Or, more accurately, log on by Gillian Tett
Get alerts on when a new story is published