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COVID-19: The New Normal ou la vie après


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The Pandemic Will Change American Retail Forever

The big will get bigger as mom-and-pops perish and shopping goes virtual. In the short term, our cities will become more boring. In the long term, they might just become interesting again.

Joshua Dudley Greer

Story by Derek Thompson


APRIL 27, 2020


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Last weekend, I walked a mile along M Street in Washington, D.C., where I live, from the edge of Georgetown to Connecticut Avenue. The roads and sidewalks were pin-drop silent. Movie theaters, salons, fitness centers, and restaurants serving Ethiopian, Japanese, and Indian food were rendered, in eerie sameness, as one long line of darkened windows.

Because the pandemic pauses the present, it forces us to live in the future. The question I asked myself walking east through D.C. is the question so many Americans are all pondering today: Who will emerge intact from the pandemic purgatory, and who will not?

In the past three weeks, I’ve posed a version of that question to more than a dozen business owners, retail analysts, economists, consumer advocates, and commercial-real-estate investors. Their viewpoints coalesce into a coherent, if troubling, story about the future of the American streetscape.

We are entering a new evolutionary stage of retail, in which big companies will get bigger, many mom-and-pop dreams will burst, chains will proliferate and flatten the idiosyncrasies of many neighborhoods, more economic activity will flow into e-commerce, and restaurants will undergo a transformation unlike anything the industry has experienced since Prohibition.

Read: How the pandemic will end

This is a dire forecast, but there is a glimmer of hope. If cities become less desirable in the next few years, they will also become cheaper to live in. In time, more affordable rents could attract more interesting people, ideas, and companies. This may be the cyclical legacy of the coronavirus: suffering, tragedy, and then rebirth. The pandemic will reset our urban equilibrium and, just maybe, create a more robust and resilient American city for the 21st century.

Flyer for Food4Life; Joe’s East Atlanta Coffee Shop, open for takeout on Flat Shoals Avenue in East Atlanta Village (Joshua Dudley Greer)


To see how the pandemic is already reshaping American retail, you don’t even have to go outside and count storefronts. Your receipts and credit-card statements tell the whole story.

On Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail spending in March collapsed by the largest number on record. Travel spending—including on airlines, hotels, and cruises—is down more than 100 percent, if you include refunds. Department stores and clothing stores are facing an extinction-level event after having experienced years of decline. Pockets of resiliency and even strength include grocery stores and liquor stores, which in March had their best month of growth on record. Home-improvement spending is up as well.

Some of these changes are violent interruptions to modern life, like the closing of gyms and cessation of sit-down restaurant service. But in the long term, COVID-19 probably won’t invent new behaviors and habits out of thin air as much as it will accelerate a number of preexisting trends.


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One obvious example is that the pandemic is accelerating the retail reckoning. Over the past 50 years, the number of American malls grew almost twice as fast as the U.S. population, to the point that in 2015, the U.S. had 10 times more shopping space per capita than Germany. Such abundance makes no sense in the age of Amazon. Overleveraged, overbuilt, and oversprawled, American retailers had a long way to fall as the country moved toward online shopping. In 2017, and again in 2019, physical-store closures reached an all-time high, led by the decay of suburban totems like Sports Authority and Payless.

The year 2020 may bring the death of the department store, marking the end of that 200-year-old retail innovation after decades of decline. Macy’s has furloughed more than 100,000 workers. Neiman Marcus has filed for Chapter 11. More legacy department stores and apparel retailers will almost certainly follow them to bankruptcy court or the corporate graveyard. As these anchor stores shutter, hundreds of malls that were already wobbling in 2019 will be knocked out in 2020.

The pandemic will also likely accelerate the big-business takeover of the economy. In the early innings of this crisis, the most resilient companies include blue-chip retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Dollar General, Costco, and Home Depot, all of whose stock prices are at or near record highs. Meanwhile, most small retailers—like hair salons, cafés, flower shops, and gyms—have less than one month’s cash on hand. One survey of several thousand small businesses, including hotels, theaters, and bars, found that just 30 percent of them expect to survive a lockdown that lasts four months.

Derek Thompson: Shake Shack is not the problem

Big companies have several advantages over smaller independents in a crisis. They have more cash reserves, better access to capital, and a general counsel’s office to furlough employees in an orderly fashion. Most important, their relationships with government and banks put them at the front of the line for bailouts.

The past two weeks have seen widespread reports of small businesses struggling to secure funds from the federal government. Larger companies do not seem to be experiencing the same delays. In one particularly controversial case, Ruth’s Chris Steak House—a public company with 159 locations and $87 million of cash on hand—announced that it had secured $20 million from a small-business rescue program that ran out of money before it could help countless independents. (Ruth’s Chris later pledged to return the money, and the federal government replenished the pot, though it will likely run out again quickly.)

These preexisting strengths will continue to matter during what will likely be a shaky recovery. As stores face new demands—like the installation of temperature-taking devices at entries, or additional sanitation controls—larger companies will have the resources to invest without becoming insolvent.

What’s more, by holding on through the next few months, America’s largest companies will be in a stronger position to incorporate millions of workers when the recovery picks up. “In the medium run, it’s probably going to be larger companies and chains doing the hiring,” Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told me. In fact, at a time when the economy is shedding several million jobs per week, Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, Dollar General, Walgreens, and Kroger collectively have job postings for more than 700,000 full-time employees or contract workers. In the David-versus-Goliath battle between big and small businesses in America, COVID-19 is, contrary to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent assessment, no “great equalizer.” It’s a toxin for underdogs and a steroid for many giants.

Sweet Auburn Barbecue on Highland Avenue, open for carryout, in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland neighborhood (Joshua Dudley Greer)


The growth of online shopping and big business will be hard to ignore for many city residents. It will make cities feel more desolate and less singular, for the next year or longer.

As e-commerce grows, it will pull more stores out of ground-floor retail locations. Many of these spaces will stay empty for months, removing the bright awnings, cheeky signs, and crowded windows that were the face of their neighborhood. Long stretches of cities will feel facelessly anonymous. With fewer independent stores and more Americans working from home, the streets will be quieter, too. Some urban residents might enjoy the feeling of a half-filled city; it will carry the eerie vibe of an awkward, permanent holiday. But even those cheered by the ample sidewalk room will find, in the darkened windows to their left and right, a shadow of the city they knew before the plague.

While mom-and-pops and department stores will close, those industries that survive and are resilient to e-commerce encroachment—such as grocers and restaurants—are more likely, in the short term, to be dominated by chains that survive the flood. Cities will still be convenient, but their conveniences will be homogenous: a dependable array of CVS locations, bank branches, fast-casual franchises, and coffee shops. (This development is not entirely new: From 2008 to 2018, New York City added a new Dunkin’ Donuts franchise approximately every 12 days.) Everything that urban residents typically despise about chains—their cold efficiency, sterility, and predictability—may come to feel like mixed blessings during a period when people feel stalked by murderous pathogens.

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For decades, American cities have fought a battle against monotony, and, according to some, the war was lost long ago. It was Tennessee Williams who allegedly said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” In a period where many mom-and-pop stores die and chains expand, it seems inevitable that what once separated the New Yorks and San Franciscos will be flattened through the mass commodification of the streetscape, as everywhere you go feels even more like everywhere you’ve been.

A steep drop in immigration could also homogenize the urban experience.

President Trump seems to want to stop immigration to the U.S. entirely, and the administration has now closed the southern border to migrants. Many Central American countries have implemented domestic curfews, making most border crossings impossible. But even without these measures, the pandemic has effectively frozen international travel and migration.

Curtailed immigration will hurt immigrant families and communities first and foremost. It will also change the face of American cities. Immigrants aren’t just more likely to start companies than native-born Americans. The companies they start are twice as likely to be restaurants and retail outlets like bodegas and nail salons. In some places, like San Jose, California, 60 percent of all new companies, including new restaurants, are started by immigrants, according to research by the economists William Kerr and Sari Pekkala Kerr.

“If we shut the door on immigration because of the pandemic, something important will be lost on American streets,” William Kerr told me. “What’s obvious is that this will be really bad for immigrant communities and for people who live in cities. What’s less obvious, but also important, is that talent flows to these cities because of these amenities. If immigrants in New York suffer, that makes the city less attractive to young immigrants, but it also makes the city less hip-seeming to some 20-something in Albany thinking about moving.”

If the pandemic has a strong hangover effect on global migration, American cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami will not be the same. And nowhere would the absence of new immigrants be felt more in our cities than in the restaurant industry, which is perhaps facing the most serious crisis of all.

Young Blood Boutique on Highland Avenue in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood; inside Taqueria del Sol in Decatur, Goergia, currently closed, and not doing carryout (Joshua Dudley Greer)


Exactly 100 years ago, the U.S. dining industry faced its first extinction-level event with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, which banned the production and sale of alcohol.

While it lasted only about a decade, Prohibition cast a long shadow over the restaurant landscape. The war on alcohol forced hundreds of fine-dining establishments to shut down, by eliminating their most dependable source of profit. The number of restaurants in the U.S. still tripled in the 1920s, in part due to the rise of “lunch car” diners that specialized in food that kids could enjoy with their sober parents, like hot dogs, hamburgers, and milkshakes. As the economist Tyler Cowen explained in his book An Economist Goes to Lunch, the ban of alcohol sales put children at the center of our culinary culture. For decades, he contended, Prohibition infantilized the American palate, making every meal fit for a kid.

Over the past few decades, U.S. restaurants have become world class. Dining out in America has become a kind of art form, leading the writer Eugene Wei to declare, in 2015, that “food has replaced music at the heart of the cultural conversation.” Food critics have noted a restaurant renaissance in Portland, Oregon; New Orleans; San Francisco; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and New York City. Honoring this achievement, Americans before the crisis spent more money dining out than in grocery stores—something that had never happened before 2015.

But COVID-19 could bring this golden age to an abrupt close. OpenTable reservations have collapsed all the way to zero. Restaurant spending has fallen by about 60 percent across the country, with the sharpest declines in fine-dining, lunch, and late-night food. The situation is especially bad for independent restaurants. “There’s no question that mom-and-pops have disproportionately suffered during this time,” said Jack Li, the managing director for Datassential, a food-and-beverage-research firm.

In the past month, chains have taken $3 out of every $4 spent eating out. That figure is significantly higher than average, according to Datassential. Chains don’t just have more cash flow; they also have more cash savings. The typical local burrito joint barely has enough money to cover a few weeks of employee pay and utilities. Chipotle, meanwhile, has public stock and more than $900 million on hand. The companies that survive the recovery will be those that can hold their breath, with or without government assistance, and there is no doubt that chains have a significant advantage in lung capacity.

Things may get even worse this summer when restaurants are open for business but customers are scared—or local laws require dining establishments to operate at 50 percent capacity. “A lot of restaurants might come back in June and realize they can’t make a profit all summer, during their peak season,” said H. G. Parsa, a restaurant consultant and professor at the University of Denver. Most people I spoke with expected cities to enact social-distancing rules that will limit restaurant capacity in order to discourage large crowds. Several chains are saying they plan to stagger seating and reduce the number of tables in their establishments. Others are talking about installing dividers between booths or adding temperature checks at the door.

Empty space is bad enough for downtown restaurants, where thin margins require filling every square inch with paying customers. But at a deeper level, these adaptations will create a whole new ambience, making restaurants more awkward, more expensive, and less fun. One of the joys of getting a drink in a crowded space is the soundtrack of a hundred strangers’ conversations humming underneath the intimacy of a private exchange. Social-distance dining prohibits the thrum of a full house. “Until there’s a vaccine, I don’t think dine-in restaurants and bars will get anything back to normal in this country,” Steve Salis, a Washington, D.C.–based entrepreneur who owns several restaurants, told me.

“I think that retail capacity will be reduced, relocated, and repurposed,” said Daniel O’Connor, a veteran retail adviser and visiting executive at the Harvard Business School. Reduced means that thousands of restaurants will go out of business. “Flat out, I’m telling you a lot of today’s restaurant locations are going to become gyms,” O’Connor said. Relocated means that many restaurants that hang on will recognize in the next few months that they can’t survive in expensive downtown areas. They’ll look to open new locations in the suburbs, or shift their business to a food truck.

“Repurposed means the restaurant of 2010 isn’t going to be the restaurant of 2025,” O’Connor said. “The pandemic is going to accelerate the shift to contactless delivery of meals, groceries, and products of all kinds.” As more restaurants recognize that they cannot make rent by filling hygienically spaced seats, they will become, simply, for-profit kitchens—a place where food is prepared but less commonly eaten.

Once again, this shift was already happening slowly, but is being accelerated by the pandemic. Last year I wrote that given the growth of “off premise” dining, 2020 would likely be the first year that American restaurants made more than half of their revenue from delivery, drive-through, and takeout. Nobody could have predicted that this milestone would be reached due to the absolute zeroing-out of on-premise dining.

Like Prohibition did 100 years ago, a delivery-first restaurant business could change the American palate. Pizza and Chinese food are well positioned for the transition, since they already account for 70 percent of the U.S. delivery market, according to a report by the investment firm Cowen and Company. But not every entrée is made to be left in a car for 30 minutes. Grilled salmon and medium-rare steak don’t benefit from a microwave zap. Neither do Michelin-star entrées, which is why some of America’s most famous restaurants have gone back to basics. Alinea in Chicago has scrapped its $395-per-person menu and replaced it with comfort foods, like beef Wellington and mashed potatoes. In a strange historical rhyme, the kid-friendly fare that became hegemonic in the American diet after Prohibition isn’t so different from common delivery food: pizza, wings, burgers, and pasta.

It would be glib to suggest that most restaurants can survive by simply pivoting to delivery. Indeed, many won’t—and not just because some consumers might be afraid of lukewarm trout. The bigger problem is that the most popular delivery items (appetizers and entrées) tend to be the least profitable, while delivery consumers rarely order the higher-margin items, like dessert and booze, that actually pay the rent.

One solution: takeaway booze. “I’ve spoken to lots of restaurants who say that alcohol delivery has saved their company,” H. G. Parsa, of the University of Denver, told me. “I think there is room for innovation here. Imagine a restaurant delivers to you the ingredients for a fancy cocktail, with the right amounts of each ingredient, with instructions for you to shake it up yourself.” Parsa sees this approach—half delivery, half DIY—as a possible evolution for more restaurants that want to expand their delivery business. It is a vision of restaurants as prepared grocers, from whom you might order several finished sides, the bottled ingredients for three cocktails, and a sirloin you’ll sear at home.

Summarizing these dizzying changes to the food industry, Parsa said: “Food that travels is the future.” As sweeping as that statement is, it might even be an understatement. In the past month, the all-delivery economy has gone from a notion to a necessity.

An employee runs carryout for the Iberian Pig in Decatur (Joshua Dudley Greer)


The spatial logic of a plague is unforgiving. If crowds are toxic, then stores cannot be crowded. And if stores are off-limits to the masses, then mass commerce must shift to the internet.

In the past month, online shopping has gone from a regular habit for a minority of consumers to a crucial part of America’s recreational infrastructure. One-third of Americans bought groceries online in the past month, and tens of millions of them did it for the first time. Walmart deliveries have skyrocketed, and Amazon now delays deliveries of nonessential items to deal with unprecedented demand. Online shopping’s share of total retail sales has been increasing approximately one percentage point per year, but a recent UBS analysis predicted that COVID-19 will immediately increase that share from 15 percent to 25 percent—a decade of change concentrated in several months.

Dan O’Connor, of Harvard, believes “offline” activity will increasingly be geared to online delivery, and will transform almost every aspect of urban retail. He pointed me to Hema, a Chinese supermarket chain operated by the e-commerce and technology giant Alibaba. Hema triples as a high-end grocer, restaurant, and fulfillment center. When you walk into a typical store, it looks like a Kroger or Whole Foods. But Hema delivers more than half of its volume through an app, making it more like a walkable fulfillment center than a traditional grocer. “If you asked me where retail is headed, I would encourage you to look at China,” O’Connor said. “If we’re going through 18 months of social distancing, which makes crowded stores impossible, then we need to significantly repurpose our retailers for increased delivery.”

Read: The problem with telling sick workers to stay home

This all-delivery economy will require either a quantum leap in autonomous vehicles and drone technology or a significant increase in delivery workers. In the short run, I’m betting on the latter. Instacart is currently seeking to add 300,000 contract workers in the next three months—more than the total anticipated new hires by Amazon, CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens combined. The delivery industry, including not only Instacart but also Uber Eats and DoorDash, has received substantial criticism for its treatment of workers, who are typically denied benefits like health care and paid leave. If social distancing accelerates the delivery economy, it will also expedite policy conversations over how to adequately compensate the essential workers who are allowing Americans to remain safely distanced.

By obliterating the face-to-face economy, the coronavirus will return Americans to a blend of virtual commerce and home prep that is reminiscent of the late 19th century. In the 1890s, Sears, Roebuck delivered a bible of goods to the doorsteps of families who cooked at home. In the spring of 2020, Amazon and its ilk deliver an infinitude of stuff to the front steps and mailrooms of families who couldn’t dine out even if they wanted to.

The return to the Sears economy will chill the kinetic energy of downtown areas. Cities are built for touch, yet we are entering an era of what Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, calls virtually assisted “touchlessness.” Movie theaters, crowded gyms, full-capacity stadiums, packed clubs and bars—all of these features of urban life will have to be paused, or downsized, to reduce viral spread.

In a plague, the social returns to density flip from positive to poisonous. In the next few years, some people who can work remotely at tech, media, and marketing companies may try to save money by moving their living-room office to the suburbs. Young college graduates may feel that moving to a city with dense public transportation is an untenable risk. Or they’ll decide that “socially distanced downtown” is an unappetizing oxymoron. If they do move to America’s largest metros, they may prefer those—like Nashville and Phoenix—where distance is already designed into the city’s sprawling infrastructure.

First Class Barber & Salon, currently closed on Flat Shoals Avenue; the Wing Bar, open for carryout on Flat Shoals Avenue in East Atlanta Village (Joshua Dudley Greer)


The song of American urbanization plays on an accordion. Americans compressed themselves into urban areas in the early 20th century. By mid-century, many white families were fanning out into the suburbs. Then, in the early 21st century, young people rushed back into downtown areas. But in the past few years, American cities have begun to exhale many residents, who have moved to smaller metros and southern suburbs. As with so many other trends, the pandemic will accelerate that exodus. Empty storefronts will beget empty apartments on the floors above them.

The American cities waiting on the other side of this crisis will not be the same. They will be “safer” in almost every respect—healthier, blander, and more boring, with fewer tourists, less exciting food, and a desiccated nightlife. The urban obsession with well-being will extend from cycling and salads to mask design and social distancing. Many thousands of young people who might have giddily flocked to the most expensive downtown areas may assess the collapse in living standards and amenities and decide it’s not worth it. Census figures will show that the urban exodus went into hyperdrive in the COVID years. There will be headlines exclaiming the decline of the American city or, more punchy, “Americans to New York: ‘Drop Dead.’”

Then something interesting will happen. The accordion will constrict again and American cities will have a renaissance of affordability.

Derek Thompson: The economy is ruined. It didn’t have to be this way.

“Right now, you see rich people literally fleeing New York for their upstate homes,” Jeremiah Moss, the author of the book Vanishing New York, told me. “What’s happening to New York is traumatic, and strange, and post-apocalyptic. But I reserve a dark optimism about all this, if cities become less expensive over the next few years.”

In the decade after the Great Recession, American cities became very popular—and very expensive. Neighborhoods that were once jewel boxes of eccentricity became yuppie depots. Wealth elbowed out weirdness, and rents soared to suffocating levels that pushed out many of the families and stores that made the cities unique.

“Cities have historically been places for outsiders, but they became ruinously expensive in the last decade when they became popular with mainstream people,” Moss said. “If cities become less expensive in the next few years, it might allow artists and weirdos and the counterculture to come back to New York and places like it. It could make cities interesting again.”

As Moss spoke, I thought of a forest fire that rages through the underbrush and leaves a legacy of ash. To look at the aftermath of the fire is to see little but death and ruin. But in time, the equilibrium of the environment is reset. Sunlight reaches the forest floor. New things grow that couldn’t have before the fire changed the landscape.

The COVID-19 pandemic will leave two legacies for the American streetscape. In the next few years, the virus will reduce to rubble many thousands of cherished local stores. Chains will surge, restaurants will feel desolate, and the density of humanity that is the life force of cities will be ruinously arrested by the disease.

But the near death of the American city will also be its rebirth. When rents fall, mom-and-pop stores will rise again—America will need them. Immigrants will return in full force when a sensible administration recognizes that America needs them, too. Cheaper empty spaces will be incubators for stores that serve up ancient pleasures, like coffee and books, and novel combinations of health tech, fitness, and apparel. Eccentric chefs will return, and Americans will remember, if they ever forgot, the sacred joys of a private plate in a place that buzzes with strangers. From the ashes, something new will grow, and something better, too, if we build it right.

The Plaza Theatre, Atlanta’s oldest operational independent cinema (Joshua Dudley Greer)

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La COVID-19 façonnera le leadership de la génération Z

Publié à 15:28  

Nous avons besoin de la génération Z à long terme et ils ont besoin de notre soutien aujourd’hui. (Photo: 123RF)

BLOGUE INVITÉ. Mes parents ont grandi pendant la Grande Dépression. Cette période a laissé une marque indélébile sur eux deux. Jusqu’à son dernier jour, ma mère éteignait encore toutes les lumières en quittant une pièce, non pas pour économiser de l’argent, mais parce que la Dépression l’avait ainsi formée.

J’espère que nous ne nous trouvons pas dans le genre de récession économique que mes parents et d’innombrables autres ont connu il y a près d’un siècle, mais je pense que les membres de la génération Z, ceux qui ont environ 23 ans et moins, verront leur vision du monde façonnée par la crise actuelle de la même manière.

Dans mes recherches sur la génération Z, je me concentre sur les personnes âgées de 23 à 18 ans, c’est-à-dire les étudiants de premier cycle que j’enseigne à l’université McGill, et sur leur compréhension des affaires et du leadership.

La littérature suggère que la fin du secondaire, l’université et nos premières années de travail façonnent notre vision du monde de manière significative. Elle évolue ensuite, mais ces années constituent une base solide pour une grande partie de notre vie.

J’ai obtenu mon MBA à l’Université de Californie du Sud à la fin des années 1970, une période de prospérité dans le sud de la Californie. Tous les diplômés de notre promotion avaient plusieurs offres d’emploi.

J’avais travaillé à Toronto, ma ville natale, pour IBM pendant l’été et j’ai reçu des offres de deux divisions différentes. Et cette chance s’est prolongée pendant un certain temps après que j’ai quitté l’université.

Il y a eu une récession au début des années 80, mais je suivais une formation de base de neuf mois chez IBM et nous avons à peine remarqué la crise.

Au moment où la récession suivante a commencé, au début des années 90, la plupart d’entre nous, les baby-boomers, occupaient des postes relativement sûrs.

La vie était agréable pour ma génération : nous pensions que nous étions extrêmement talentueux, que le capitalisme nous réussissait et dans l’ensemble, nous avions une vue assez ensoleillée du monde. Tout le monde n’a pas profité de cette chance, mais dans une grande partie du monde occidental, les débuts de carrière des baby-boomers ont été favorables.

La vision du monde d’une génération provient de la culture selon laquelle on leur enseigne des choses comme la nature de la vérité, la hiérarchie du monde et les qualités requises pour être un leader.

Comme je le soutiens dans mon prochain livre sur la génération Y et Z, les baby-boomers ont grandi avec une vision moderne du monde et les générations suivantes avec une vision postmoderne du monde.

Mais au-delà de ce que l’on nous enseigne, il y a ce que nous vivons. Comme mes parents, vos aînés ont peut-être été très affectés par la dépression ou la Seconde Guerre mondiale, et ce, pendant une grande partie de leur vie professionnelle.

Pour la génération Z, la pandémie mondiale actuelle est probablement ce moment formatif. L’avenir est inconnaissable ; peut-être qu’un événement encore plus séismique se produira dans un avenir proche, bien qu’à part une guerre mondiale, il soit difficile d’en imaginer un.

Pour mieux comprendre comment la propagation de la COVID-19 s’inscrit dans un contexte historique, j’ai récemment interviewé plusieurs PDG de grandes entreprises mondiales. Tous siègent également au conseil d’administration d’autres sociétés mondiales, et sont âgés de plus de 75 ans. J'ai aussi interpellé mon collègue Henry Mintzberg qui appartient à la même tranche d’âge.

Je voulais avoir le point de vue de personnes qui ont vu et fait beaucoup dans leurs longues vies prolifiques. Lorsque je leur ai demandé si la crise actuelle était unique, ils ont tous les trois répondu par l’affirmative.

Il semble qu’il faille remonter à la Seconde Guerre mondiale pour trouver une autre période de tumulte similaire.

Il est inévitable que nous nous dirigions vers une récession dans une grande partie du monde une fois que les protocoles de confinement se détendront.

Mes étudiants me parlent déjà d’emplois d’été, de stages et même d’emplois à plein temps qui sont annulés ou, au mieux, reportés lorsque cela est possible. Peu d’organisations semblent prêtes, en cette période de grande incertitude, à s’engager dans de nouvelles embauches.

Quel contraste avec la guerre des talents qui a caractérisé la fin des années 2010 et dont j’ai été témoin dans ma salle de classe ! Au cours des dernières années, les PDG qui ont suivi notre cours CEO Insights pour les MBA de McGill ont recruté plus assidûment que jamais de jeunes talents dans leurs entreprises.

Jusqu’en février de cette année, de nombreuses entreprises étaient activement à la recherche de la capacité de la génération Z.

Alors que certains pays et provinces commencent à annoncer des mesures de déconfinement, il est essentiel de considérer la flexibilité, l’agilité et la résilience que cette pandémie demande de nos jeunes.

Les générations plus âgées doivent les soutenir et leur faire une place. Nous avons besoin de la génération Z à long terme et ils ont besoin de notre soutien aujourd’hui.

Il est difficile d’être un jeune sur le marché du travail aujourd’hui et il en sera probablement ainsi plus longtemps que nous ne le pensons.


Karl Moore et Marie Labrosse. Karl est professeur associé à la Faculté de gestion Desautels et Marie est étudiante en maîtrise de littérature anglaise, tous deux à l'Université McGill.

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Repenser le travail de l’après-crise

[Photo: Al Bello Getty Images via Agence France-Presse «Les employés des supermarchés à qui l’on refusait une hausse du taux horaire à 15 dollars, ou le personnel de la santé dont les conditions de travail épouvantables attirent d’ordinaire peu la sympathie de la population, se retrouvent soudainement acclamés en tant qu’anges gardiens», écrit Sébastien Parent.

Sébastien Parent

Chargé de cours en droit du travail (Polytechnique Montréal) et chercheur doctoral (CRIMT — Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal)

28 avril 2020IDÉES


Sous ordre de confinement, le quotidien des gens est bouleversé devant cette trame qu’on aimerait encore croire surréelle, mais que l’on sait non moins tragique.

Pour faire face aux conséquences socio-économiques que provoque la pandémie de COVID-19, un droit social fort s’impose. Même s’il s’inscrit au sein de cette branche, le droit du travail apparaît toutefois désarmé.

À tout le moins, l’utilité des protections légales qu’il comprend est fortement relativisée par la crise que nous traversons, ce qui place à l’avant-scène la question de son interface avec le second volet du droit social, soit celui de la sécurité sociale.

À la suite des mesures sanitaires annoncées par le gouvernement, les entreprises offrant des services jugés non essentiels ont dû cesser temporairement leurs activités. Pour beaucoup de travailleurs, l’annonce d’une mise à pied les attendait fatalement.

On aura beau explorer à fond les droits et recours mis à disposition par la législation du travail, il n’y a pratiquement rien qui peut protéger convenablement les salariés contre les répercussions financières du coronavirus. Seules les indemnités en cas de mises à pied subites auraient pu s’appliquer, mais elles font l’objet d’une exception en cas de force majeure, ce à quoi correspond sans doute une pandémie mondiale.

Étant donné que le champ d’application des lois du travail suppose une prestation de travail active, les protections qu’elles confèrent s’estompent lorsque les membres de la classe laborieuse ont massivement perdu leur emploi. Nous avons, dès lors, assisté à un retour marqué de l’État-providence pour secourir les travailleurs touchés, notamment par la mise en place de prestations d’urgence individuelles, de subventions salariales aux entreprises et d’un programme de développement des compétences de la main-d’œuvre.

Sous le choc de la présente catastrophe, l’absence d’opposants à ces mesures de sécurité sociale d’envergure surprend peu. Pourtant, les programmes sociaux n’ont cessé d’accumuler des coupes sévères au fil des dernières décennies, sans trop soulever de contestations. Le droit de la sécurité sociale qui est aujourd’hui enrichi par les gouvernements est resté fidèle à son objet, à la différence que l’urgence de la situation démontre avec éloquence sa nécessité dans notre société, surtout lorsqu’une masse importante de la population en a besoin en même temps.

En réponse aux divers maux qui affligent le droit du travail contemporain, plusieurs chercheurs insistent justement sur l’instauration de mesures de protection sociale afin de tisser un filet de sécurité solide, qui engloberait également les travailleurs en marge du salariat. Le développement de l’employabilité et l’instauration d’un revenu universel de base constituent quelques pistes à explorer.

Par ailleurs, la gestion des ressources humaines a dévoilé une capacité d’adaptation impressionnante au cours des semaines précédentes. Entre autres, les obstacles souvent invoqués en réticence au télétravail se sont dissipés en un instant, promettant une meilleure conciliation famille-travail.

Puis, les employés des supermarchés à qui l’on refusait une hausse du taux horaire à 15 dollars, ou le personnel de la santé dont les conditions de travail épouvantables attirent d’ordinaire peu la sympathie de la population, se retrouvent soudainement acclamés en tant qu’anges gardiens, et leur rémunération est aussitôt élevée par une intervention étatique. On comprend enfin leur rôle essentiel dans notre économie capitaliste, qui avait pris l’habitude de les reléguer à une certaine précarité.

Derrière le constat sourd des défaillances de la régulation du marché du travail par les principes du néolibéralisme, cette crise sanitaire suscite donc des réflexions et alimente un vaste terrain d’expérimentation pour l’avenir de l’emploi, qu’il faudra certainement poursuivre une fois la situation résorbée

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Who Will Ride Transit After Coronavirus?


 MAY 6, 2020

After lockdowns ease, public transportation ridership in the U.S. is likely to remain low for years. But some see a way forward for a new understanding of transit’s role.



In 1918, streetcars were the top urban transportation mode in the United States. And they were packed: Americans made about 140 trips per capita, about 15 billion trips total, that year.

Then came the Spanish flu. As influenza ripped through cities, crowded systems were forced to make health-centric changes, including requiring masks on passengers, limiting streetcar capacity, and staggering commute hours to keep riders distanced. Some vehicles were briefly decommissioned due to a shortage of operators. Still, the popularity of mass transit did not suffer dramatically in the succeeding years — at least not until the Great Depression put a quarter of the country out of work and, later, when the private automobile began to displace it.

What about today? Coronavirus has walloped bus and rail networks. The top transit systems in the U.S. have seen 70% to 90% ridership losses as commuters have been laid off, worked from home, or opted for other means of travel since March. With few passengers, daunting finances, sick operators, and a heightened imperative to sanitize, agencies have dramatically scaled back service. San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Agency has ceased rail operations and eliminated nearly 70% of its bus network. In Washington, D.C., buses are serving just 26 “lifeline” routes and Metro trains are running on Saturday schedules. The New York subway has stopped running 24 hours a day for the first time in 115 years.

Transit’s current situation is partly a reflection of the overall travel freeze on driving, flying, and all other modes during stay-at-home orders in major cities. But when lockdowns ease, there are reasons that transit commuters in particular may not return in force.

First, bus and rail ridership tends to be more sensitive to  economic changes than other modes, and the financial effects of coronavirus are poised to stretch long into the future, said Brian Taylor, an urban planning professor and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Second, some proportion of would-be passengers are likely to continue to work remotely, while others may change their commute patterns to driving or biking. “We know that people will be scared to use public transportation from a health perspective,” said Ahmed El-Geneidy, a professor of urban planning at McGill University who has studied transit ridership. Based on what’s happening in China, a post-pandemic car sales boom may be in the offing.  

“For many years we have a lot of aspirations for transit: We want it to beat traffic, fight climate change, and revitalize communities.”

Third, assuming rider demand and revenue remain low, transit agencies may have to keep service cuts even after lockdowns lift, despite the fact that more vehicles, not fewer, are needed to allow for social distancing. Academic literature shows that such cuts themselves can be rider-deterrents. “There’s an elasticity that shows if you cut service by 10%, you can generally expect ridership goes down 3-6%,” said Greg Erhardt, a civil engineering professor at the University of Kentucky who specializes in travel behavior and transportation planning.

A final and pernicious factor is that 2020 was primed to be the sixth consecutive year of what Taylor calls a “disturbing trend”: U.S. transit ridership has been in decline since 2014, even as transit agencies have added service on the whole. Much of that new service has come in light-rail extensions and some bus-rapid transit lines usually designed to attract “discretionary riders,” or people who can afford to choose between driving and transit, and often financed through sales tax measures.

Explanations for ridership’s downward slide during these years abound. Cheap gas and easy credit for auto loans increased the appeal of car use, while service quality deteriorated on the older parts of transit systems. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft emerged, and a housing affordability crisis pushed many people outside the range of reliable transit.  

In Southern California, Taylor and his colleagues have found that the largest drops in ridership have come from groups that were traditionally the heaviest, most economically dependent users of transit. Lower-income immigrants in particular have abandoned buses as car ownership among those communities has increased. While the share of discretionary riders has increased slightly, thanks to increased investment into rail and rapid bus service geared toward more affluent commuters, “their added trips are still overwhelmed by lost trips from others,” Taylor said.

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Who will ride in the wake of coronavirus? Passengers will inevitably return in dense cities with extensive systems, such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where transit is critical for thriving urban economies to function, Taylor said. But the best indication of the future face of transit may be the people on board right now. And there are still a lot of them: By the end of March, New York City subway ridership cratered to 10% of its usual five million weekday trips, but that still meant it was providing more than 500,000 trips. The 65% ridership drop on L.A.’s Metro buses, reported in mid-April, still equates to 500,000 daily boardings.

It isn’t clear how many of these trips were made by essential workers, but analyses based on census data show that more than 30% of normal transit riders have jobs that have been deemed pandemic-critical. Individuals riding to work right now are also less likely to have the option to drive, and they are more likely to be people of color, as evidenced in photos of crowded subways and buses that have sparked online outrage in recent weeks. Transit, an urban mobility navigation app, has found that 68% of the people using it to plan bus and metro trips right now are women, most of them black and Latinx.

There is one grim new potential reservoir of future transit riders, Taylor said: lower-income households that have bought vehicles in the last few years. Their car-owning status could be vulnerable to an economic downturn.

These circumstances point to a potential shift in the way transit is used, viewed, and potentially funded, experts said. Traditionally, a successful transit system is one with a lot of riders, with packed buses and cars and a large share of revenue derived from passenger fares. But in a world where social distancing means life or death, and a 40-foot bus has an eight-passenger capacity limit, emphasizing ridership and fare recovery as the metrics of success may no longer make sense. Yet the nurses, orderlies, grocery store workers and pharmacists boarding today are proof that transit itself is a critical social institution. “Transit agencies should be switching their brains to serving those riders,” said El-Geneidy. “We have to accept that public transport is an essential service. We can’t think about it as a for-profit organization that can make money from ridership.”

That could create a stronger demand for federal funding for transit, instead of local agencies continuing rely on fares and tax measures tied to projects like light-rail expansions sold to affluent voters with the promise of congestion relief. For Taylor, that may mean something like a reality check for transit-boosters.

“For many years we have a lot of aspirations for transit: We want it to beat traffic, fight climate change, and revitalize communities,” he said. “But the two things it has demonstrably done in last half century is provide mobility for those without — whether that’s due to age, income, or disability — and allow highly agglomerated places function. My educated guess is that we will see the rise of transit as a social service.”

In a Pandemic, We're All 'Transit Dependent'

If that sounds like giving up on transit, look to the cities that are using the crisis as a moment to revamp their systems with social equity as a priority. El-Geneidy and Erhardt both pointed to San Francisco as a leader, where the SFMTA redesigned bus service virtually overnight in early April to focus on just a few dozen routes mostly serving commutes into the city’s downtown core and major hospitals. About 100,000 people are still riding every day.

Jeffrey Tumlin, the executive director of the SFMTA, acknowledged that not all of the 100-plus routes lost to coronavirus are necessarily going to return. But he strikes an optimistic tone: He believes that a transit network that focuses more narrowly on frequent, more reliable service along fewer routes may serve the city better in the end. While the streets are still empty, the SFMTA hopes to rethink its approach to transportation writ large. Facing a sharp rise in vehicle traffic and fatalities, and seeking to slash carbon emissions, the city had already moved to ban private vehicles on its central downtown corridor, and has spent the past year studying congestion pricing.

With little vehicle traffic, “we’re in an extraordinary period of time to rethink how we manage our streets,” Tumlin said in an interview in April. “We have to set the city up not only for a stronger recovery, but also for a more urban, humane economy.”

About the Author

Laura Bliss



Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.


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This restaurant in Amsterdam introduced 'quarantine greenhouses' so diners can eat while social distancing

By Leah Asmelash, CNN

Updated 2:08 PM ET, Thu May 7, 2020

People have dinner in a so-called quarantine greenhouses in Amsterdam, on May 5, 2020 as the country fights against the spread of the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

(CNN)Missing restaurants while social distancing? You're not alone. One restaurant in the Netherlands, though, has found a solution.

Mediamatic ETEN, a restaurant in Amsterdam, is offering a four-course vegetarian menu for diners -- served to guests while they sit in their own personal quarantine greenhouses.

Right now, the trial service is only being offered to family and friends of staff, and all upcoming reservations are sold out, according to the restaurant's website.

A group of friend have dinner in a so-called quarantine greenhouses in Amsterdam, on May 5, 2020 as the country fights against the spread of the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

Still, as many places begin to loosen restrictions on social distancing, this type of greenhouse dining could take off.

"It's super cozy, it's really cozy, it's nice and the food is delicious," diner Janita Vermeulen told Reuters.

Waiters wear gloves and face shields to alleviate any risk of infections, the restaurant confirmed to CNN. They also use long boards to bring dishes into the greenhouses to diners.

A waitress wearing a protective face shield arrives to serve wine to friends having dinner in a so-called quarantine greenhouses in Amsterdam, on May 5, 2020 as the country fights against the spread of the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, in the US, more than half the states are starting to reopen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released detailed instructions for restaurants planning on reopening, including the use of disposable menus.


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Illustration: Glenn Harvey

The Harsh Future of American Cities

How the pandemic will alter our urban centers, now and maybe forever

Steve LeVine

May 4 · 14 min read

History has unfolded in waves of profound depths followed by the relief of buoyant times, only for the depths to return with unsentimental speed. The French Revolution and the Reign of Terror gave way to Paris’ jolly Incroyables and Merveilleuses, young men and women who dressed ostentatiously and had a cathartic frolic — for about four years until Napoleon took power. After World War I and the pandemic Spanish Flu, the Roaring ’20s carried Berlin, London, and New York into a new age of hilarity. But then came the global Great Depression.

The hope in U.S. cities is that Covid-19 and the economic downturn will end with another delirious release — a rash of buying by exultant consumers, a new economic boom, and a return to work. They might. Certainly, the passing of the pandemic, along with social distancing, will elicit enormous relief along with parties galore. Pent up for so long, people will rush to the shops.

But alongside the displays of liberation, and for years after, American cities and towns seem likely to see untold scars of both the pandemic and the depression-like recession. On the nation’s current trajectory, one of the most probable post-Covid future scenarios in our cities is stark austerity, with empty coffers for the very services and qualities that make for an appealing urban life — well-paying jobs, robust public transportation, concerts, museums, good schools, varied restaurants, boutiques, well-swept streets, and modern office space. There will be hopping pockets of the old days with adjustments for pandemic safety, but for years, many businesses could be shuttered and even boarded up, unable to weather Covid-19 and the economic downturn. Joblessness will be high, and many of the arts may go dark.

American cities and towns seem likely to see profound scars of both the pandemic and the depression-like recession.

What kind of calendar are we looking at? The U.S. is a can-do nation, but don’t be surprised if we are still having this conversation late next year and even in 2022 and are observing a very different urban look and tone then and beyond.

For decades, economists, demographers, and urban experts have spoken of the technological marvels to come in the age of the megacity. But just as urban areas have become the dominant feature on the planet, for the first time containing more than half the world population, they are facing the potential for “substantial damage to the social and political fabric in many regions,” write Mathew Burrows and Peter Engelke in a paper for the Atlantic Council. Few thinkers as yet appear to be paying attention to this new, brewing predicament as cities contend with the aftermath of Covid-19. But at a minimum, it seems clear that glossy megacity blueprints will need serious modification.

“In the Midwest, we have been pushing density — the rehabilitation of downtowns, smaller apartments in the core, the joy of being in a city,” Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, said in an interview. “This completely arrests that development.”

Cities are ground zero for the Covid-19 crisis, where young people, professionals, older workers, and families actually live, get sick, are treated, and die—and who pay for police, ambulances, fire departments, parks, parades, judges, sewers, fireworks, jobs fairs, and often schools. Throughout history, city dwellers have usually produced the most important creations of human society, including the Mona Lisa, the light bulb, and Apollo 11. Some of the biggest practical advances have been in health and longevity. In the 1850s, the cities of New York, Paris, and London rebuilt their sewage systems in response to a century-long global cholera pandemic that killed more than 1.5 million people and ushered in a new age of urban sanitation that spread across the globe. In 1900, to rid Chicago of typhoid, engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River, thus halting the daily contamination of Lake Michigan, the source of the city’s drinking water.

The 2010s started with a surge in city living, especially for millennials. They flocked to urban cores after the financial crash and injected them with vigor. But even before the coronavirus, the rush had tapped out. For the last couple of years, the top cities have been losing population, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, according to Brookings. The exodus has struck even San Francisco County, the capital of Silicon Valley. Who has been leaving, and where have they been going? A lot have been the same millennials now a little older and taking up residence on the outskirts of smaller metropolises like suburban and exurban Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver, where new jobs and affordable homes can be found.

The speed of the coronavirus’ attack on the cities has been brutal. In a recent survey of 2,463 cities and towns, half said they plan to cut public services to compensate for the loss of tens of billions of dollars in sales and income tax revenue; more than a quarter said they will lay off employees. New York suddenly has a 9% budget shortfall of about $8.1 billion. Ohio is a disaster zone all on its own, according to Brookings, with four of the country’s most cash-strapped cities.

Over the last six weeks, Congress and the Fed have allocated some $7 trillion in relief for businesses, hospitals, and workers. To call cities an afterthought would be an insult to the distracted many. The nation’s largest three dozen cities received 5% of the total voted by Congress, or $150 billion, to be doled out by the states where they are located. Afterward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised cities and states that if they are in financial distress, they should declare bankruptcy. Senate and House Democrats say cities and states will be in the next tranche of relief, but McConnell has signaled there will be strings attached.

But the flurry of emergency money is now. When the coronavirus crisis finally ends, the U.S. is likely to remain in the midst of its other crisis — the deep recession, whose roots precede the coronavirus, and economists say it is likely to linger far longer, perhaps for years. The worry is that, after spending trillions just getting by and buried in debt, Congress will resist a multiyear future of heavy urban aid. McConnell has had to retreat from his hardline posture. But his resistance at this stage — in the midst of the pandemic — is a signpost for the tightfistedness that’s probably coming when the pandemic is over. And the degree to which the character of cities are affected, “people start leaving,” said Tony Fratto, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies. “What they expected to be there is no longer there.”

Inthe Middle Ages, European city dwellers had one way of avoiding their centuries-long waves of plagues: stay inside and hope for them to go away. Today, countries that have begun to open up amid Covid-19 — Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and South Korea among them — have started with a similar lockdown but have meanwhile moved to take control of the virus. The shared core of all their approaches has been the creation of vast SWAT teams, hundreds of specially trained workers who, clad in protective gear, swoop in to test for Covid-19, trace anyone with whom a discovered carrier has been in contact, and enforce a quarantine on the whole lot.

It is estimated that the U.S. needs 100,000 to 300,000 tracers, up from about 2,200 employed currently between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials. But no national mobilization is currently planned nor is there any sign that one will be later.

How the Black Death Radically Changed the Course of History

And what that can teach us about the coronavirus’ potential to do the same


In other words, the virus is calling the shots, which is the singular reason for the protracted probable depth and length of the coming post-virus urban hangover even as increasing numbers of states elect to reopen. And the longer that businesses are in limbo and shoppers in large numbers remain leery of crowds, the worse the economic fallout will be. “Without an effective testing and tracing infrastructure in place, ‘re-opening’ is just a synonym for ‘second wave of the pandemic,’” Erik Brynjolffson, a professor at MIT, tweeted last week.

One conspicuous fallout is a potentially final blow to Main Street — the future likelihood that, when you walk or drive down your favorite roads, many of the shops and restaurants you love won’t reopen. In an April 22 note to clients, Barclays said Covid-19 had accelerated what it calls the “retail death curve,” the shift of business to e-commerce. Over the coming five years, 30% to 40% of still-existing physical shops will close, the bank said. Neighborhood shops hoping to survive may have to feature cashierless technology resembling Amazon Go, vending machine sales, and kiosks offering grab-and-go clothing combinations such as T-shirts, jeans, and jackets.

It will be the same with restaurant takeout and delivery. Restaurants will be far from finished as an urban thing. Some restaurants will vanish, but others will arise in their place. Dining out, however, may no longer be the main alternative to cooking at home. The winners will be Amazon and Uber, Walmart, DoorDash, and Target, whose boom in delivery will grow at almost everyone else’s expense. Other emerging businesses, perhaps to support the unicorns, will be reliable, close-at-hand farms growing enough food so the nearby city needn’t worry about future pandemic disruptions, said Alice Charles, a cities analyst for the World Economic Forum.

Much of our current aversion to crowds will dissipate with time. Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto, said that after the 1918–1919 flu pandemic, it took five or six years until people got comfortable taking trains again but that ultimately they did. “There was short-term adaptation and then no long-term change,” Florida said. It’s hard to know what residue of the Covid-19 pandemic will remain with us long-term — an obsession with disinfectant? Different dating practices? “Hindsight suggests that some behavioral and societal changes spurred by a pandemic can be lasting,” Barclays said, “and a vaccine may not be available for at least another year, at which point behaviors could be more ingrained.”

The Taiwanese capital of Taipei is an example of how a city can reopen before a treatment or vaccine are created. In the city, temperatures seem to be taken at every building entrance — at shops, malls, apartments, schools, workplaces, and offices. IDs are checked on the way in and out of apartment buildings. Movements are tracked by cellphones. If you have just arrived in the country, you are subject to a 14-day quarantine. Today, the island’s case count for the entire pandemic is 429 with six deaths.

That is not how the story ends in American cities. For us, life is likely to return to normal only when herd immunity is reached, Covid-19 burns itself out, or a treatment or a vaccine takes its course.

Bythe measure of the 2008–2009 crash, the Covid-19 recession should propel Generation Z to flock to the urban core and reignite the fortunes of New York and Chicago. But powerful counterforces suggest that history may not repeat nor even rhyme. One of them is the probable duration of social distancing, the depth of the economic downturn, and the hit to city comforts. The greater anti-urban force, though, may be geopolitics.

Even before the virus, President Donald Trump’s trade war with Beijing had initiated a decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies. Last year, U.S. manufacturing imports from China dropped 17%, “evidence that U.S. companies were starting to significantly” shift away from a reliance on Chinese goods suppliers, according to a recent report by Kearney, a consulting firm. Now, Covid-19 looks likely to accelerate the decoupling. The driver is how the virus laid bare the perilous fragility of globally stretched supply lines. U.S. companies will want far more diverse sources of parts and places to manufacture. “Companies will bring their strategic stockpiles closer to the U.S., maybe to Mexico,” said Sridhar Tayur, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

But the shift may directly affect U.S. cities, too, because some companies will bring factories back home. Michele Acuto, director of the Connected Cities Lab at the University of Melbourne, said that the U.S. lacks sufficient numbers of engineers to restore manufacturing at scale. But to the degree manufacturing does return, companies will shun expensive urban centers and intensify the buildup of city outskirts, where there is cheap, plentiful land and access to labor and transportation. “Rebounding manufacturing jobs would probably favor suburbs and red-leaning counties,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed. Lily Fang, a professor at France’s Insead, said medical technology — China is often the singular provider of critically needed pharmaceuticals and medical gear — is a primary example of an industry that would return to the U.S. and specifically to smaller cities. “Paris will still be Paris,” Fang said, using her own capital as a proxy for our great cities. “But it reduces the distance between Paris and the rest of the country.”

Always, pandemics seem to lead to a scapegoat — often perceived outsiders. During the Roaring ’20s, the U.S. went into an immigrant scare. Among those ringing the alarm was Calvin Coolidge, then governor of Massachusetts, who argued that the U.S. had become a “dumping ground” for “the vicious, the weak of body, the shiftless or the improvident.” The United States needed “the right kind of immigration,” he said. In 1921 and 1924, Congress passed a new quota system that clamped down on the immigration of eastern and southern Europeans and banned Asians outright. The closure of borders hit the U.S. with almost immediate effect and lasted for four decades: a 68% plunge in U.S. patents in the fields where the blocked immigrants worked, including electrochemistry, fluid dynamics, and mathematical analysis, according to a recent paper co-authored by Petra Moser, a professor at New York University. The innovation drought continued through 1965 when the Johnson administration’s Immigration Act reopened the country.

On April 22, Trump ordered narrow new restrictions on immigration that largely affected the families of green-card holders, and Moser says the hit to innovation is likely to repeat. “Our research suggests that blocking immigration today will damage U.S. science and innovation and that any damage may persist for a very long time,” Moser said. “Even when such policies have targeted low-skilled immigration, they are likely to discourage scientists and other high-skilled immigrants from the same countries to come to the United States.”

Even in a Hobbesian age of one nation, one state, and one city against the other, the pandemic is making a lot of people at least silently concede that we are all in this together.

Moser also says that the new law seems likely to accelerate the shrinkage of major cities across the country. Some 85% of U.S. immigrants live in the top 100 metro areas, according to a report last year by the New American Economy, a pro-immigration think tank. From 2014 to 2017, the population would have declined without immigration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; San Jose, California; Dayton, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and St. Louis, Missouri. The new loss of immigrants will morph into a worker shortage in certain professions: Foreign-born U.S. residents are 34% of the health care workers in El Paso, Texas; 18% in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and 16% in Tuscon, Arizona, for instance.

Some of the country’s most important companies have launched during adverse times, going back to the depressions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (GE, GM, IBM) and right up to the last financial crash (Square, WhatsApp, Slack). Cities seem likely to continue to be founts of creativity. But they will be hobbled by Trump’s immigration crackdown.

Brynjolffson, the MIT professor and co-author of the classic on automation, The Second Machine Age, said the Trump administration’s immigration policy had already had a “clear negative effect” on innovation in his own lab. “It’s not just the written rules but also the people enforcing them who have now become much more nitpicky: delaying responses, being uncooperative, and denying visits for minor mistakes or bureaucratic obstacles,” Brynjolffson said.

“The key thing to understand is that [U.S.-born] American researchers and innovators are not hurt when the U.S. is a talent magnet, and neither is the general public,” he said. “On the contrary, immigration is a big part of what has made Silicon Valley, the Boston area, and many other parts of the U.S. so innovative, increasing everyone’s living standards. Forcing innovators to do their work in other countries hurts the U.S. in the long run.”

Roger Keil, a professor at York University, points out that urban life has already changed from what it was a few months ago. “Being urban is about freedom and mingling,” he said. “But now we are prisoners in our homes.”

Yet it is not all bad in the city. Even in a Hobbesian age of one nation, one state, and one city against the other, the pandemic is somewhat breaking through the usual hardcore divide and making a lot of people at least silently concede that we are all in this together. The virus, says Rebecca Katz, a professor at Georgetown University, is showing cities that they need each other. While Trump parcels out blame, local political leaders are forming alliances. Largely they are governors — on the West Coast, in the East, and in the Midwest. But at their core are the big cities that dominate them. “Governors and cities are taking this approach because of a lack of national leadership,” Katz says.

This is a global trend. For instance, in order to protect their own populations, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam have stopped new rice exports. As a response, seven food-importing and -exporting countries have formed a pandemic trading union. Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Myanmar, Brunei, and Singapore have agreed to keep their own mutual supply lines open regardless of conditions.

All this détente is a gigantic black eye for another epidemic: populism. Countries where garrulous demagoguery has taken root over the last four or so years — the U.S., the U.K., and Brazil, for instance — have shown themselves to be less-adept crisis managers than technocratic places like Singapore, Denmark, Austria, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan. Pushan Dutt, a Singapore-based professor for Insead, the French graduate business school, notes that all the latter countries are electoral democracies, putting the kibosh on the idea that you can only effectively impose pandemic strictures if you are a king. These countries learned the lessons of the last pandemics, had plans in place, and executed them. The U.S. government also had a plan in place but distrusted “the deep state.” The resulting chaos has left what successes there have been to old-fashioned city mayors and state governors.

“The rise of populism in the West is proving very expensive in this crisis,” Dutt says. “The correct dichotomy isn’t between democratic and autocratic countries. It’s between competence and incompetence.”

That thought, while reassuring politically, still doesn’t leave much room for comfort if you live in a city where it does matter if the trains run on time — and whether you feel safe riding on them.


Steve LeVine

I am Editor at Large at Medium with interests in ferreting out the whys for the turbulence all around us. Ex-Axios, ex-Quartz, ex-WSJ, ex-NYT, ex-FT.


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5 effets de la Covid-19 qui vont transformer l’avenir du design


Une nouvelle conception de la “bulle”

La conception des espaces pourrait être guidée par de nouvelles préoccupations liées à la sécurité sanitaire et au bien-être des personnes. La “bulle” personnelle dans les lieux publics, corporatifs et commerciaux pourrait se traduire par une moins grande densité des occupants, des aires communes plus vastes, des espaces plus intimes voire aseptisés, etc. Peut-être même le retour en force des cubicules, une des hypothèses sur le bureau post-Covid.

«Nous pouvons jouer sur de nombreux paramètres [...] non “physiques” qui ne remettent pas en cause les qualités spatiales et relationnelles d’espaces que nous avons réfléchis au fil des années et des projets»


NEUF architect(e)s

Selon Anne-Marie Charlebois, designer d’intérieur sénior, Workplace Practice Leader, de NEUF architect(e)s c’est l’environnement de travail qui est le plus touché par la crise actuelle, notamment parce que les tendances des dernières années étaient à l’ouverture des espaces, à la densification et donc au rapprochement des personnes.

«L’exemple le plus illustratif est évidemment l’aire ouverte, et ce modèle pourra être ajusté selon les besoins de chaque entreprise. Nous pouvons jouer sur de nombreux paramètres: contrôle du niveau d’humidité pour éliminer les bactéries, apport d’air frais et systèmes de filtrage performant, nettoyage de conduits avec ultra-violet, etc. Autant de paramètres non “physiques” qui ne remettent pas en cause les qualités spatiales et relationnelles d’espaces que nous avons réfléchis au fil des années et des projets», dit Anne-Marie Charlebois.

«Car une chose est sûre: personne ne souhaite retourner aux partitions de 72 pouces de haut des anciennes stations de travail. Et s’il y a une chose que devrait permettre cette pandémie, c’est de remettre le bien-être des employés dans l’ordre des priorités de l’entreprise!»


Crédit photo: Stéphane Brügger

Chez soi également, le besoin de confort et de sécurité se voit accru et accentué par les effets du confinement. La ligne entre vie professionnelle et personnelle est brouillée par la nécessité du télétravail: un mode de travail qui se pérennise. En conséquence, il faudra se créer une autre “bulle”, celle pour travailler chez soi, dans un environnement photogénique et un espace imaginé selon de bonnes pratiques, sans oublier l’ergonomie. En outre, on peut imaginer que le bureau à la maison deviendra une composante de plus en plus essentielle dans l’aménagement des projets résidentiels. 

Un apport reconnu du design sur la santé collective et individuelle 

Le confinement et le ralentissement des activités peuvent nous faire prendre conscience de la qualité relative de notre environnement bâti. Pour Éric Pelletier, architecte, associé principal – conception de Lemay, il est souhaitable que ce moment d’arrêt permette de réfléchir, entre autres, sur la qualité des milieux que nous habitons.

«Cachés derrière des exigences fonctionnelles, techniques et programmatiques, nous en venons bien souvent à oublier le plaisir de vivre simplement l’espace.» 



«Je nous souhaite de réaliser que le paysage, la ville, l’architecture et le design ont un apport important sur notre manière de vivre, mais aussi sur notre santé collective et individuelle. Cachés derrière des exigences fonctionnelles, techniques et programmatiques, nous en venons bien souvent à oublier le plaisir de vivre simplement l’espace. Ce qui nous semblait futile, comme le plaisir des lieux, de l’espace urbain, d’un paysage, de la lumière du soleil sur un mur, des percées visuelles ou de la ventilation naturelle, revêt aujourd’hui une importance singulière et sensible», dit Éric Pelletier.


Crédit photo: Stéphane Groleau

Pour l’équipe de Humà Design + Architecture, on pourrait voir se profiler un intérêt plus marqué pour le design “prothétique”, soit le design qui soigne: «Beaucoup d’études ont été faites sur des lieux, CHSLD notamment, où du graphisme, des objets et des matériaux spéciaux aident à freiner les maladies dégénérescentes du cerveau. Cette idée d’un design-béquille au croisement de plusieurs domaines d’expertise en design pourrait être appliquée à la vie de tous les jours, cela nécessiterait toutefois des efforts de recherche mutualisés par différentes spécialités du design sur les effets du confinement», expliquent les designers.

«La crise actuelle nous amène à repenser nos manières d’occuper l’espace et d’interagir avec notre environnement, les deux grands sujets du design.» 

Anne-Marie Charlebois croit qu’il ne s’agit pas tant de “transformer” nos manières de concevoir que de les recentrer autour d’enjeux fondamentaux. «La crise actuelle nous amène à repenser nos manières d’occuper l’espace et d’interagir avec notre environnement, les deux grands sujets du design. C’est l’occasion de mettre en évidence l’aspect social de la discipline et son importance dans la vie de chacun», dit la designer.

Une approche du design qui intègre les phases de l'existence

«La planification de grands projets immobiliers pourrait avantageusement intégrer des logements adaptés aux aînés et prévoir des espaces publics dont l’ergonomie répond mieux aux limitations inévitables du vieillissement.»

Selon Michel Dubuc, président du conseil de Ædifica, «le discours (des dernières années) sur l’inclusion sociale ne s’est pas attardé à la problématique des aînés dont la voix est trop souvent restée silencieuse. Cette approche se reflète dans le fait que trois fois plus de personnes âgées sont en résidence spécialisée au Québec, en comparaison avec l’ensemble du Canada. Une solution simple en apparence, mais qui impose aujourd’hui de porter un regard critique sur l’absence de considération, pour ne pas dire d’imagination, que nous avons portée à cette partie de la population.»

Pourrait-on voir un intérêt grandissant pour l’aménagement d’environnements bâtis favorables à un vieillissement actif dans les temps à venir? 



«Une plus grande participation des aînés dans la vie communautaire et de meilleures conditions de vie pour cette clientèle qui souhaite demeurer active devrait se traduire dans la conception et la construction d’habitations multigénérationnelles et de résidences de plus petit format adaptées aux réalités et besoins des aînés», soutient Michel Dubuc. «La planification de grands projets immobiliers en habitation et en usages mixtes pourrait avantageusement intégrer des logements adaptés aux aînés et prévoir des espaces publics dont l’ergonomie répond mieux aux limitations inévitables du vieillissement. Il en va des matériaux, des textures, des éclairages, du mobilier; bref cela affecte toutes les dimensions de l’espace public, incluant la place qui doit être réservée à la biophilie.»


Crédit photo: Adrien Williams


Université de Montréal

La nécessité de considérations spécifiques à l’égard de ces populations est partagée par Virginie LaSalle, professeure adjointe à l’UdeM, spécialiste des environnements architecturés destinés à des occupants vulnérables. Elle insiste sur l’importance de créer des environnements signifiants pour les aînés en centres d’hébergement. Dans le contexte d’architecture résidentielle, elle recommande une conception évolutive tenant compte des phases de l’existence des individus. 

Une ville à échelle réduite 

Pour Stéphane Bernier, directeur, studio de design de Ædifica, les quartiers pourraient devenir des moteurs socioéconomiques avec la demande pour une mixité commerciale accrue et décentralisée.



«Le confinement (et le déconfinement progressif) permettent le retour en force d’un mode de vie ancré dans l’échelle réduite d’un quartier ou d’un arrondissement. Un mode de vie qui délaisse la voiture et même le transport en commun au profit d’une mobilité active adaptée à l’échelle du quartier. On va probablement chercher à éviter les centres d’achats et les grandes surfaces, au profit des commerces locaux. Les rues commerciales de quartier vont devoir se transformer», dit Stéphane Bernier.



Crédit photo: Ædifica


ACDF Architecture

Joan Renaud, associé, architecte chez ACDF, pose la question à savoir jusqu’où irons-nous pour transformer la ville par précaution sanitaire: «Nos environnements urbains devront s’adapter avec des trottoirs plus larges, des élargissements de rues qui permettront des files d’attente à l’extérieur de certains commerces, plus de tampons végétaux, des pistes cyclables unidirectionnelles, de nouveaux designs de bancs publics et de jeux de parc.»

Le design à l'heure de l'horloge climatique

On a vu, dans plusieurs pays, des bâtiments dont l’usage a été transformé pour répondre aux urgences de la crise sanitaire: hôtels, centres sportifs ou communautaires. L’idée d’adaptation et conversion de bâtiments existants pourrait gagner en popularité. Les projets pourraient plus systématiquement être envisagés avec des vocations multiples, et une valorisation plus optimale des bâtiments dans le temps.  


Crédit Photo: Stéphane Brügger

« On a beaucoup entendu ces dernières semaines que nous construisons le train ou l’avion pendant le trajet [...] Et pourtant la question des matériaux plus écologiques devient un enjeu crucial qui ne saurait s'établir rapidement. »

Il est souhaitable qu’un attrait pour les éco-matériaux et les produits sourcés localement prennent encore du galon, et que les designers puissent faire leur sélection à partir d’informations vérifiées.


BGA architectes

© exposeimage.com

«On a beaucoup entendu ces dernières semaines que nous construisons le train ou l’avion pendant le trajet. Depuis quelques années, la conception instantanée à travers les charrettes de conception notamment a été assez populaire. Ces exemples donnent à penser que le temps accordé à la conception va encore se rabougrir! Et pourtant, la question des matériaux plus écologiques devient un enjeu crucial, qui ne saurait s’établir rapidement. Cela va changer nos pratiques, nos façons de concevoir. Et ça va prendre du temps! À défaut de garder le cap sur des conceptions plus réfléchies, nous risquons de contribuer davantage à la destruction d’habitats variés. Ceux qui se consacrent à la fabrication de matériaux bio sourcés savent bien que la matière sur la planète pour les réaliser n’est pas infinie. Leur production et surtout leur caractère renouvelable sont indissociables d’un avenir plus durable», affirme André Bourassa, associé, architecte chez BGA, et récipiendaire de la médaille du Mérite 2019 de l’OAQ.

Par ailleurs, le projet Construire avec le climat relate que «les aléas climatiques attendus, plus fréquents et plus intenses, constituent des défis supplémentaires pour la conception et la gestion des bâtiments: rythme d’usure plus rapide, défaillances de l’enveloppe, de la structure ou des matériaux utilisés, risque de coupure de l’approvisionnement en énergie, etc. Ces impacts sont à anticiper pour assurer la santé et le confort des occupants, et notamment des plus vulnérables».


Architectes et designers seront plus que jamais riches de propositions pour embellir et adapter nos milieux de vie afin de contribuer à notre bien-être. Toutes les hypothèses quant à l’après-Covid sont encore bonnes. Espérons maintenant que cette crise permette de concevoir des milieux de vie encore améliorés, incluant de forts critères de durabilité. Pour citer Éric Pelletier en guise de conclusion: «Peut-être que la vie reprendra tout simplement son cours, de manière effrénée, impersonnelle et individuelle; cela serait bien dommage...».

Photo de couverture: Projet Autodesk par ACDF Architecture, photographié par Adrien Williams.



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Don’t blame dense cities for the spread of coronavirus

The pandemic has challenged my urbanist beliefs, but buildings aren’t responsible for human problems

By Kate Wagner 

on April 22, 2020 8:00 am

Illustrations by Paige Vickers



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