The economic impact of COVID-19 will be long, difficult and will discriminate, according to experts who participated in a panel hosted by the University of Waterloo.

In the first of a series of “Post-COVID-19-Reboot" panels, the economic impacts of COVID-19 and rebooting the economy were discussed by research experts and business leaders. They believe Canada needs to be prepared for a deep recession followed by a long recovery.

Panel members also highlighted that the negative impacts of COVID’s economic crisis will not impact society equally having so far disproportionally impacted women.

The panel series is part of the work being done by Waterloo’s Gateway for Enterprises to Discover Innovation (GEDI). A full video of the panel is available online.

"What we're likely to see is a very deep recession followed by a very slow and drawn-out recovery," said Craig Alexander, the chief economist at Deloitte Canada. "The reason that recovery is going to be slow is that we're only going to gradually re-open the economy and it won't be business as usual."

Alexander’s perspective was shared by Joel Blit, an associate professor of economics at Waterloo who added that the Canadian economy was in a high-risk position before COVID-19 with inflated asset prices and a high level of personal debt but that the current situation could inspire some progress.

“Recessions are an important impetus for firms to trim costs, develop new products and do innovation,” said Blit.

Alexander and Blit were joined on the panel by Nada Basir, a professor at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business, Sanjeev Gill, Waterloo’s AVP of Innovation and Lifelong Learning, and Alex Goryachev, the managing director of Cisco Global Co-Innovation Centres.

The panel was chaired by Bessma Momani, a political science professor at Waterloo and Interim Assistant VP International Relations

“As global and widespread as this crisis is, its impact has been disproportionate,” said Basir. “Some people are at higher risk for health reasons, socio-economic factors and some countries, businesses and industries have been hit harder than others.

“My real worry is that small and medium sized industries, 70 per cent of our jobs, will not have access to government bailouts,” she said. “Smaller companies are experiencing the worst layoffs, in the double digits, and if you dig a little further it’s jobs held by women that are most impacted with two-third of laid off workers being female.”

The economy, according to members of the panel, may not resemble the one we were used to. Moving forward, Canadians should expect increased automation displacing further jobs and the increased penetration of internet technologies in business, education, healthcare.

GEDI is set to host a further expert panels on the topics of supply chain management, data security, and research to tackle real-world problems and Canada’s virtual future.

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