What will we be able to do in 2021 for travel, work & life?
Now that 2020 is behind us, what will the year of 2021 hold for us? Not sure that my crystal ball is working properly (and the manufacturer is refusing to answer their helpline), but let's look at what we can expect to see happen and what sort of plans we can make for travel, work, business and life.
Okay, so we have a global pandemic that has killed millions and seems to be getting worse even though vaccines are here. We don't really know how effective they will be and anyway, it will take the rest of the year to vaccinate everyone in Australia. There is also a global recession, which is not as bad as other recessions but that might just be because governments are dumping money into the economy to keep it ticking over.
Internationally, Trump is nearly out of the White House. The UK is out of the EU, sort of, as basically nothing has changed after the EU agreed to the one deal that makes sense, free trade with the UK. Australia is out of favour with China after the rest of the world said: "Hey Scott, why don't you call for a COVID-19 investigation to find the truth, China won't mind if you do that." But luckily we are no longer out of toilet paper, so 2021 is looking up.
COVID-19 and you
Obviously, COVID-19 is still an ongoing thing. Yes, we have not one but multiple vaccines worldwide. Australia has signed up for multiple different vaccines but it takes time to both manufacture and distribute these vaccines.
In the meantime, you have need to remain COVID vigilant and continue to implement good practices. We are already facing more lockdowns before this is over. If you have symptoms, get tested, and of course, avoid breaking lockdown and quarantine rules.
When the vaccines start to roll out, sign up for these. There is no exact plan at the moment with different vaccines having different effectiveness. I am not sure if we will be able to choose which vaccine we will get, but the more people who are vaccinated, the quicker we can get past all the COVID-19 restrictions.
Remember, they don't know which, if any, of the vaccines will create immunity, or just create resistance. This means, people who are vaccinated may still be infectious with the disease, even though they are in much less danger of getting ill.
Travel in 2021
For many people, the greatest frustration has been travel restrictions. Promised travel bubbles have not emerged and even Australia-wide travel came in 2020 and went out in 2021.
For the first half of 2021, we are probably still restricted to exploring our backyard and complaining that things are more expensive and the service isn't as good as the rest of the world. But there are still a lot of adventure and destinations to see with many people doing the great campervan tour of Australia long before they become a grey nomad.
By the middle or end of 2021, there may be the possibility of travel to other countries. This means that if you are booking now, you can often get great travel deals because travel companies are keen to get revenue during this time. Most promise the right to postpone a holiday. Read the terms and conditions carefully though before paying anything.
So why not find your dream holiday, book things now and if the vaccines don't deliver the results we are all hoping for, postpone it to 2022. Remember, focus on the bigger travel companies for your bookings, as the smaller ones are likely to fold.
Meanwhile, there are so many places in Australia worth visiting. The road trip is definitely what many people want to do but others are heading to great destinations, like Fraser Island or Kangaroo Island, and it seems everyone wants to finally getting around to visiting Tasmania. Then others are finding new ways to holiday, such as heading off to a country retreat with friends and family. For those on a budget, buy a cheap tent or dusting off the one in the garage for camping, is always an option.
Recession and recovery
With 20 years of lack of increase in productivity, recent lack of wages growth and the slowing of the world economy in the face of a new emerging financial bubble, Australia was already heading into recession in the early part of 2020. Then COVID-19 hit, not only did the government no longer have to take the blame for the recession, but they also were able to break the normal rules of neo-liberal economics to deal with the problem by dumping money into the economy.
They put money into the economy in terms of support for people on benefits, keeping links between companies and employees with Jobkeeper and both state and federal governments putting money into infrastructure expenditure. This has meant that at the start of 2021, we are only in a mild recession. Yes, lots of people, and especially, some industries, are doing it tough, but overall it hasn't been too bad.
But the extent of direct stimulation of the economy is being wound back. After all the government can't just keep spending money to cover up an economic downturn. People are also saving more than ever before. Yes, over Christmas, people did spend big but only because they had money in their pockets from not spending on holidays or big-ticket items like new cars and appliances.
2021 should be a time for caution. But when there are moments of great chance, there can also be opportunities to make money. The stock markets are booming and certain sectors are, such as healthcare and technology, are doing especially well.
Interesting things have been happening with house prices. The mainstream media ran months of doom and gloom for the housing market based on very little (mostly it was that banks modelled what would happen if house prices dropped 30%, and found that they would survive. The media then said "House prices could drop by 30%" despite this not being what the reports said). Now the media is telling us to buy in certain places. The problem is these are the boomtowns, such as seaside suburbs in Queensland, Northern NSW and regional centres. After all, if you work from home it doesn't matter where you live, and if you are a FIFO worker, the same applies.
But buying into a boom is often not a good idea. In this case, people will find that while it works with their current job, their regional location is not good when they want to change work. Post COVID-19, you can expect prices in those areas to drop again. Meanwhile, we should try and buy low to sell high. For example, apartments that were bought for $800K in Sydney are selling for $700K now. You have to work out which way you think the market will go in the future?
What about opening a business? Have you ever want to open a cafe? You can bet that right now there are many around the country up for sale at a bargain price. What about entering the retail market? There are plenty of vacant shops in good locations. How about an airline? There are planes sitting in the desert doing nothing, pilots who are working in grocery stores, and airport terminals vacant. Rex Airlines used COVID-19 as the perfect time to expand their services, capitalising on the growth of regional travel to put themselves in a position to be Australia's third major domestic player.
Of course, if you are out of a job, are in an area of low demand, or working in an area that the shifting job market means that there is not much of a long-term future, it is time to rethink your career. Some people are making career changes, others are upskilling for the future recovery or, as already stated, starting a business.
There are many levels of study you can do to enhance your job prospects. One simple option is to study basic online certificates. These are unlikely to get you a job by themselves but if you want to be a supervisor, do a supervisor course. Need to prove you know particular software? Do a course on that software. And this applies to any subskills within your area. Some industries value certain rare but easy to get skills, such as a forklift license.
Australia has a great system of education with multiple levels and different modes of study. This often means that you can study what you need, how it bests suits you, and when you have time it. For example, I know a lot of people trying to break into Project Management within their field of work. You can learn the skills through a quick Certificate IV in project management or do Masters at university in project management.
There are other ways to upskill as well. Volunteer work is often a great way to learn about certain industries or practice certain skills. Many people get their first management or leadership experience as a volunteer, but there are also a great need to accountants, web designers, administrators, disability volunteers and more, and so if you need experience, volunteer today. Commitment can be for one-off events, for only a few hours a week, or several days a week for months.
Let's not forget the skills that come from hobbies. Prove your design skills by taking up painting, show that you love being part of a team, by joining a local sports team, join Toastmasters to show you can speak in public, or demonstrate your physical fitness by going to the gym. Want to be a writer, then why not apply to write for WeekendNotes. There is always something you can be doing that is both fun and useful.
There is a lot of talk about how COVID-19 will permanently shift certain aspects of society but generally what we are seeing are mostly temporary changes, or COVID-19 just accelerated trends that are already in place. Which leaves the question, what societal changes do we need to be ready for in 2021?
The trends related to work are interesting. More people would prefer to work from home but this might mean companies stop employing people but instead contract them for specific roles or tasks. The trend to outsourcing staff may accelerate but this can mean we get to live where we want, work how we want and when we want.
2020 was a great year because it really was the first year that solar power and other renewables became cheaper than fossil fuels. The change over is inevitable but other than maybe buying an electric or hybrid car, and installing solar panels, for the individual, there is not much to do.
We also have seen more money being pushed into technology companies. This is the future of economic growth around the world and we need to embrace it to survive. We need technology skills and knowledge to do any job, from farming to actually building the technology itself.
A last item should be a shout out to science. When governments followed the professionals and the evidence, things went well but when governments chose to ignore the science, large numbers of people died. Encourage your kids to learn science and maybe learn a little yourself. But most importantly, think and act based on evidence. A simple example would be ignoring non-evidence based trendy diets, and following the science instead.
I am not here to complain or rant on about politics and politicians, rather to point out that in a democracy, we are all politicians, even if our only involvement is voting, and if we choose not to vote, that is a political statement as well. But there is more we can do politically.
Remember, Australia doesn't have a one-person one vote system, rather we vote for our local member, who votes for the Premier or Prime Minister. This means, our power is best expressed locally. Write to your local member of parliament, make an appointment to see them personally. They have to see you. I have fixed local issues where I have lived by doing this. They can take your concerns and put pressure on the top levels of government and help set policies.
Petitions are another good way to register your viewpoint and get action. Not all petitions make sense and my view is don't just sign something because you agree with the sentiment, make sure you agree with the wording. A quick test is when petitions that have antagonistic or disparaging wording, they are trying to get you angry, not solve a real problem. The more they rant, the more you know you can't trust their motives.
We can also join political parties as well. Australia has lots of minor political parties and they play a big part in expressing alternative points of view, but even big parties rely on members and volunteers to function effectively.
Overall, it is about being aware and informed. It is easy to be emotional about political issues and it can take a little effort to learn more about them but that effort means you are less likely to be fooled.
2021 is shaping up to be a year that will be, maybe, a little better than 2020. There are struggles ahead but this should be the year when things start to get better. It is not going to be all rainbow unicorns and fairy sprinkles but there is a strong sense that by the end of the year, things will be much better.
Image of a rainbow unicorn courtesy of Adelmo Donis @ Pixabay