The experts are busy these days trying to figure out where our pandemic-shocked economy is headed next, but their forecasts are running into some unique problems.
One, clearly, is the difficulty of predicting COVID-19 outbreaks. But another huge wild card is what people will actually do when the lockdowns are lifted. Will they be confident enough to return to offices, ride public transport, eat in restaurants, travel to foreign countries on vacation?
The answer seems to be … not really. The polling shows a vast majority of people in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. are hesitant to engage in many of the major activities that compose daily life, from going to work or school to eating in restaurants and attending large gatherings.
Watch: Many won’t return to gyms or restaurants despite lockdowns being eased. Story continues below.
Even as the economy reopens, “a quiet nervousness will give the economy a collective pause, and people everywhere will focus anew on income security and health security,” wrote John Stackhouse, a senior vice-president at Royal Bank of Canada, in a report issued Friday.
“This new age of insecurity will do more than pervade the Canadian psyche. We estimate that even with a modest recovery, the Canadian economy will be operating below pre-coronavirus levels until 2022, and the combined loss of economic output for Canada may exceed $1 trillion.”
How confident Canadians are could be key in determining how quickly our lost jobs and threatened businesses recover.
So where do Canadians stand?
Notwithstanding our long-running reputation for being a particularly risk-averse nation, on attitudes to post-pandemic life, we look fairly similar to Americans and the British. That’s despite the fact both the U.S. and the U.K. are struggling with more aggressive outbreaks of COVID-19.
Still, what people consider risky behaviour varies from place to place. Here’s what Canadians’ risk profile looks like today, as compared to Americans and Brits.
(Note: These polling numbers from three different countries aren’t perfectly comparable, but we’ve tried to match survey questions and survey periods as closely as possible.)
Ready to get back to the workplace?
Although Britain leads both the U.S. and Canada in per-capita COVID-19 deaths, Brits are somewhat more likely than either Canadians or Americans to be comfortable heading back into the workplace after the lockdown, according to recent polling. On this metric, Americans are slightly more risk-averse than Canadians.
Would you consider a meal in a restaurant?
While Brits may be the most willing to get back to work, they are less likely to be comfortable eating in a restaurant than either Canadians or Americans.
The really notable result here is that the vast majority of people in all three countries will be uncomfortable eating in restaurants after the shutdown orders are lifted. That could mean restaurants will find themselves struggling long after the pandemic.
Willing to travel outside the country this year?
When it comes to leaving the country, there’s quite a big difference between Brits and North Americans, with 80 per cent of Brits recently saying they would be willing to travel outside the country at some point in 2020. In separate polls, fewer than one in five Canadians and Americans said the same.
Some of this is cultural; in Europe, a trip abroad is something you might do on the weekend, while in North America crossing an international border is seen as a bigger deal. But the numbers do suggest that North America’s airline industry faces a long slog back to normal activity, and domestic tourism will trump travelling abroad in the foreseeable future.
Canadians vs. Americans
Though the stereotype is that Americans are risk-takers and Canadians tend to be more cautious, our willingness to take risks in the post-pandemic era looks very similar, at least in recent polling from Leger.
One notable difference is that Canadians seem more willing to head back to the mall, while Americans seem slightly more willing to get back to large events like major-league sports and festivals. But with majorities in both countries still hesitant to get back to any activity that potentially involves crowds, it will be a long road back to normal.