Posts Tagged "pandemic"
March 23, 2023
Remote Work Didn’t Recede with Pandemic
The remote work necessitated by COVID may be here to stay in five English-speaking countries from Australia to the United States.
That’s the conclusion from a study of 250 million online job ads – nearly half of them in this country. The number of postings in January that offered remote work for one or more days per week was three to five times larger than the remote work positions advertised on the cusp of the pandemic in 2019. Notably, their numbers increased sharply last year as COVID was retreating.
The countries in the study are: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The United Kingdom has the largest share of positions advertising remote work – 18 percent. The United States and Australia each have 12 percent.
During the first two months of the pandemic, as businesses around the world shut down, remote work soared. That initial spike was followed by sustained growth throughout the pandemic.
“It has become clear that this shift will endure long after the initial forcing event,” the researchers said.
They identified fully or partially remote positions by working with a Boston data company that scraped government and private-employer websites, job boards, and job-vacancy aggregators like Indeed.com and Monster.com. They searched key words in the job ads including remote work, work from home, and home office.
All five countries experienced big increases in remote work, but the researchers said there is “a high degree of heterogeneity in remote work adoption” in the industries and companies where these flexible jobs are located. …Learn More
March 21, 2023
COVID’s Toll on Minorities with Disabilities
It’s been well documented that the COVID recession and layoffs in 2020 were particularly hard on Black, Hispanic, and Latino Americans. But if they had a disabling physical and medical condition, they felt it much more.
In a new study examining the cumulative impact of having a disability combined with the disadvantages of being an older minority worker or retiree, the racial disparities were apparent on a variety of fronts – in the inability to pay for essentials, at work, and through some difficulty obtaining medical care.
Past research has shown that once the pandemic hit, people with disabilities, who tend to have lower incomes, had an even tougher time financially than in the years prior to COVID. The racial aspect of these hardships was explored in this new research, as dramatized by the difficulty some Black, Hispanic, and Latino people with disabilities had paying their rent or mortgage.
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, paying for housing was a problem for about 13 percent of them. That was about four times the rate for Whites with disabilities and was also a much bigger issue than Blacks, Hispanics, or Latinos without disabilities faced.
Racial differences were also evident when people of color with disabilities tried to buy another essential: groceries. One in five said they couldn’t afford all the food they needed – roughly three times the rate for Whites with disabilities and about twice the rate for Hispanics, Latinos and Blacks without disabilities. …Learn More
December 22, 2022
Connect with a Senior During the Holidays
Hannah Boulton defies the stereotype of the lonely retiree longing for companionship during the holidays. But after two-plus years of a pandemic, even this dynamic former nurse who’s lived on three continents started feeling a little isolated.
Then she met Ally Brooks, a high school senior, through the Sages and Seekers program at the senior center in Duxbury, Massachusetts, in September. The program, modeled on a national nonprofit’s workshop, paired up seven retirees with seven high school seniors. It was such a success – the program was Boulton’s’ idea – that a second one is planned in January for a new crop of seniors.
The 76-year-old Boulton and Brooks bonded immediately over their love of travel. Boulton shared her adventures, having lived in Okinawa during the Vietnam War, where her first husband was stationed, and in Karlsruhe, Germany, where her second husband worked.
And she encouraged Brooks to follow through with a plan to apply to four colleges in England and Scotland, including, coincidentally, one that Boulton’s late husband had attended. “I was so excited for her, and of course I’ll visit her” in college, she said. “I just feel like we’re connected.”
Chris Coakley, who manages the volunteers for the Duxbury senior center, said the Sages and Seekers program fulfilled its goal of easing the isolation she saw was affecting the town’s older residents.
A significant minority of older Americans in various surveys have said they are lonely, and the pandemic only heightened that feeling, which already existed for reasons ranging from hearing loss to struggles with the death of a spouse or a chronic illness.
The pandemic, Coakley said, made the center’s staff realize “how important it was to have connections.”
So consider taking the initiative yourself to reach out to an older family member or neighbor. Invite someone for a meal during the holidays or drop in for a visit.
It takes a little work. But the effort will make a difference. …Learn More
October 25, 2022
Cut off from Grandkids, Depression Sets in
The purpose of the 2020 restrictions on older people’s activities during COVID – whether voluntary or government enforced – were crucial: keeping them alive as the deadly Delta variant raced through the population worldwide.
But saving lives came at the cost of grandparents’ mental health, according to a study in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences about grandparents in England.
In the scary early months of the pandemic, grandparents cut off or limited interactions with their grandchildren. In England, the grandparents who isolated themselves suffered more mental health problems, including bouts of depression, than the grandparents who maintained the same amount of contact with grandchildren as they’d had before COVID, the researchers found.
This isolation affected grandparents all over the world. American doctors warned older people against mingling with young family members, any of whom might be asymptomatic carriers of the disease. European governments imposed lockdowns or discouraged old and young from getting together. In Israel, the defense minister said, “the single most lethal combination cocktail is when grandma meets her grandchild and hugs him.”
The response by grandparents was echoed in a March 2020 article, “When Can I See my Grandkids?” The COVID-imposed isolation finally gave way to some normalcy after the older population got vaccinated at high rates.
But researchers said the pre-vaccine loneliness had an especially big impact on the grandparents of children under 15 who took the most dramatic step: cutting off all contact with them. Early in 2020, half of the English grandparents who had caregiving duties prior to the pandemic stopped interacting with the children. …Learn More
May 31, 2022
Remote Work Has Pushed Up House Prices
Slack, Citizens Bank, Penguin Random House, Verizon, 3M, Twitter – the list is long and growing of companies that have allowed employees to continue working remotely even though the pandemic seems to be easing.
The COVID-19 upheaval in lifestyles – the moving around to larger homes, to the countryside or to an affordable city – is pushing up house prices.
John Mondragon at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Johannes Wieland at the University of California, San Diego, estimate that remote work fueled a 15 percent rise in house prices over the two-year period that ended in November 2021. That’s more than half of the total price increase for that period, which was a record, the researchers said.
A few different types of lifestyle changes drove the price hikes. But the bottom line is that remote work caused a frenzy of buying activity that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The increase in demand sparked competitive bidding for properties – and prices shot up. And the parts of the country where remote work was more common had significantly larger price increases.
The price increases “reflected a change in fundamentals rather than a speculative bubble,” the researchers concluded.
Soon after the pandemic began, workers who were changing their living arrangements made the news. Renters left behind expensive apartments in New York or San Francisco to escape COVID’s dangers. Now working remotely, they used their newfound freedom to become first-time homeowners in an appealing suburb nearby or a rural area halfway across the country where they could afford to buy a house.
The need for larger homes also heated up market activity. Having more space was suddenly more valued by workers who required an additional bedroom to set up a home office or now had to accommodate both spouses working from home – and, early in the pandemic, children attending classes on Zoom.
The researchers stress that they measured only the price increases resulting from an increase in aggregate housing demand nationwide. In other words, people didn’t add to total demand if they simply moved from Chicago, where they sold a condominium, to Des Moines, Iowa, where they purchased a house of similar value. …Learn More
April 7, 2022
The Pandemic Was a Gift to this Grandpa
In the early days of the pandemic, four of Marc Joseph’s grandchildren, along with their parents, came from Austin and Orlando to live with him and his wife, Cathy, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Two other grandchildren living nearby were frequent visitors to the house for meals and sleepovers with their cousins.
Many families coalesced to ride out the pandemic together and counteract the stillness that fell over the world. Joseph’s six joyful weeks with his grandkids, ranging in age from 1 to 8, changed how he looks at his personal relationships and the responsibilities of being a grandparent.
“As you grow older, you grow wiser,” he said. “I wish I was there more often for my kids – every concert they were in, every ballgame they played. I was traveling around the world. I wasn’t always home,” said the former entrepreneur. “If I can spend more time with my grandkids, then maybe it’s making up for what I didn’t give my kids.”
The time with his grandchildren is so precious that Gramps, as the children call him, found a way to keep the connection alive when the children went back home. Every evening, he and Cathy made up stories about dinosaurs roaming their house in order to share them with the grandkids on Facetime. One night, the dinosaurs camped out at the refrigerator eating blueberries. Another night they were playing the piano.
“We became part of the routine,” Joseph said. “The kids took baths and read books and then they’d say, ‘What are the dinosaurs doing tonight?’ That gave us a chance to keep in communication with them.”
Joseph’s focus on family isn’t at all unusual. One research study found that women don’t make major changes in their more developed personal lives after retiring. But men do. After years of focusing on their careers, older men become more dependent on family and greatly expand their social networks.
All that love from grandchildren – without having to worry about managing their day-to-day activities – takes the edge off of getting older. This may be especially true during COVID, which has isolated retirees from the social interaction crucial to maintaining their mental and physical health. …Learn More
January 27, 2022
Rental Market Roars Back and Workers Pay
For a whole host of pandemic-related reasons, rents dipped in 2020 as millions of Americans lost jobs, stayed home from college, left the cities, or arranged for aging parents to live with them.
But the economy has bounced back, and an additional 900,000 households entered the rental market in the first nine months last year. This unusually large surge in demand drove up rents and raised new concerns about housing affordability for the low- and middle-income workers who were already struggling to pay the rent.
The market for professionally managed apartments saw an unprecedented rent spike of 11 percent in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier. Prior to the pandemic, annual rent increases had averaged 2 percent to 5 percent. The biggest hikes are in pricier apartments and are being fueled by a strong job market and young adults in their 30s marrying or moving in with partners or friends.
“These higher-income renters aren’t just living in units that are higher end. They’re also competing for units that would be affordable to middle- and lower-income households,” said Alexander Hermann, senior research analyst with the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
“The affordability challenges they’re facing are real, and there’s plenty of reason to be concerned about what’s happening,” he said.
One positive development in a difficult rental market is that multifamily construction is at its highest level since the 1980s. However, it will take years for the new inventory to ease the pressures on apartment supplies and rents.
The low inventory of single-family houses for sale currently, combined with high house prices, are also driving up apartment demand by well-paid professionals. To satisfy the demand, hedge funds and other businesses are snapping up single- and multifamily homes and renovating them as rental properties. The high-end market is so hot that rents in this segment rose 14 percent last year, according to the Harvard housing center’s new report.
At the bottom of the income ladder, however, 23 percent of households with less than $25,000 in income are behind on rent, as are 15 percent of households earning between $25,000 and $50,000. These renters are disproportionately people of color, who felt the brunt of the massive job losses when businesses shut down early in the pandemic. …Learn More