Optimism about the Canadian economy’s ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic has rebounded significantly since the spring of last year, according to a longitudinal subscriber survey conducted by The Logic.
Almost three-quarters of respondents said in February that they were optimistic about the economic recovery, an increase of nearly 20 percentage points from April 2020. Forty-three per cent of subscribers said they were “somewhat” optimistic, and 31 per cent were “very” optimistic. The percentage of subscribers who were pessimistic about economic recovery dropped by almost 20 percentage points during the same period.
“There will be a tremendous surge in spending once the vaccination programs have matured and lockdowns end,” one subscriber wrote.
Optimism has risen steadily since The Logic began surveying subscribers, following a low of 45 per cent in June. The heightened positivity coincides with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and Joe Biden’s inauguration as U.S. president, both of which subscribers cited in their responses as benefits to Canada.
Many subscribers are also expecting pent-up consumer demand to take off once what one respondent referred to as “vaccine euphoria” hits, ushering in a period like the Roaring Twenties.
“Opportunities will abound,” another subscriber said.
For some, optimism is rooted in the possibility that the crisis will present a turning point for the Canadian economy. Many subscribers said they hope to see a transition away from a natural resource-based economy, and toward a knowledge-based economy focused on sustainability.
The Logic emails subscribers a private link to an online survey. Respondents’ identities were kept anonymous and duplicates were removed as needed. Beginning in March 2020, subscribers were asked whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “COVID-19 will lead to a prolonged, structural reorganization of the global economy.” Their choices were “Strongly disagree,” “Somewhat disagree,” “Neither disagree nor agree,” “Strongly agree,” “I don’t know.” They were also asked “Is your company making or anticipating structural changes related to COVID-19?” Their choices were: “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t know.” Beginning in April 2020, subscribers were asked “How optimistic or pessimistic are you feeling about the Canadian economy’s ability to recover from the pandemic?” Their choices were: “Very pessimistic,” “Somewhat pessimistic,” “Neither pessimistic nor optimistic,” “Very optimistic,” “I don’t know.”
“The metric for me isn’t recovery to the past, it’s recognizing the need to reorient our economy towards the zero-net carbon and socially inclusive North Star,” one subscriber wrote.
“The energy industry will be permanently transformed, but ultimately, we will emerge greener and stronger,” another said.
However, not all subscribers are convinced that the recovery would be equitable.
“History has shown that major disruptions create greater inequality. We have not built an economic system strong enough to support a middle class after a pandemic,” one wrote, adding that workers who have remained employed during the pandemic will emerge with “significant advantages” over those who did not. Racialized and immigrant workers and women have been disproportionately affected by layoffs during COVID-19.
“I don’t see governments taking steps to adapt to a diversified, green economy and reinvest in public health care, public education, public housing, and social services. Without these investments, any economic recovery will be limited to a small fraction of Canadians,” another said.
Other respondents who were pessimistic about the economic recovery cited concerns about government debt, rising inflation and unemployment.
Although optimism has surged, respondents expect that a prolonged, structural reorganization of the global economy will persist once the crisis has subsided—a view subscribers have held consistently since early in the pandemic. Nearly 72 per cent of respondents agreed with this notion when surveyed in February 2021, on par with almost 71 per cent in March 2020.
Subscribers have consistently cited several trends that have accelerated amid the pandemic, including workplace changes like remote work and less travel, an increased shift toward domestic manufacturing and more diversified supply chains, and heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.
Although subscribers expect long-term economic reorganization, The Logic’s survey suggests that the situation in many workplaces has somewhat stabilized since early in the pandemic. In February, just under 50 per cent of subscribers said their companies were making or anticipating structural changes related to COVID-19, almost 20 percentage points less than in March 2020.
A large number of subscribers have pivoted to remote work, with an increasing amount writing that their organizations had given up office space or begun hiring staff in other regions as the pandemic progressed through the spring and summer.
Many subscribers reported increased integration of technology into their businesses, including internal processes and online delivery of services. While some have seen layoffs or salary reductions, other subscribers working for digital-first companies said their firms have experienced “tremendous growth.”
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When The Logic first began surveying subscribers about workplace changes in the spring of 2020, responses suggested uncertainty around long-term business prospects.
But now, with a possible end to the pandemic in sight, many subscribers have returned to longer-term planning, and are looking beyond COVID-19.
“We are making structural changes related to focus on low carbon, not COVID,” one subscriber wrote.