OPINION – Compounding the woes

These effects are starting to show up in the population statistics. According to the data just published for the first quarter of the year, the number of non-resident workers dropped by more than 7,000 people, compared to the all-time high figure recorded at the end of 2019.

That is about 3.5 percent of the non-resident population, a number which may not seem too severe given the sharp and sudden stoppage of the main drivers of the economy.

However, that figure is likely to underestimate the effects of the change of economic tide on the labor market. Given the uncertainty surrounding the evolution of the pandemic in the first half of the quarter, most changes involving labor relations are likely to have happened in the latter part of the period.

Further, many firms started with lighter measures such as compulsory holidays or reduced working schedules. More substantial effects will possibly appear more clearly reflected in the second quarter’s data. 

The consequences of these changes will not stay confined to the labor market, though. All these workers and, in some cases, their families, represented a certain amount of expenditure in the local businesses that will come suddenly to nil as they leave the territory.

In some cases, it involves the highest ranks of staff. That will affect those businesses catering to the relatively wealthy residents and tourists, which may have some resistance to the shock. In other cases, they will touch the income of smaller businesses catering to less affluent parts of the public. These will suffer pretty hard. Further expenditure losses will only compound those already imposed but the lack of visitors.