Could Swine Flu Help the Economy?

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The first signs of economic recovery are starting to appear, but there are concerns that they will soon disappear again, thanks to the swine flu.

This fall and winter, the H1N1 virus, also called swine flu, is expected to re-emerge. And with it may come fresh worries about the economy.

Back in April, Mexico was most affected economically by the swine flu. Transportation and tourism in Mexico took a dive, and the International Monetary Fund estimated that GDP growth in Mexico may have been slowed by between 0.5% and 1% as a result of the swine flu. Other countries received a hit to tourism and other related industries as well.

This time, though, the resurgence of the swine flu could have different effects on the economy. The World Bank believes that 70% of the economic impacts from the swine flu this fall and winter will be related to absenteeism at work and attempts to avoid infection.

According to AFP, International Monetary Fund’s Simonetta Nardin believes that global financial stability could be affected: “The main threat to financial stability is the risk that high levels of absenteeism could lead to breakdowns in the functioning of key financial systems.”

Productivity in other sectors could also be affected by absent workers as they recoup from swine flu, or as they stay home with children and other family members afflicted with the illness. School closings as a result of swine flu outbreaks could also influence parents’ decisions to stay home from work and look after their kids. According to the IMF, depending on how severe the swine flu gets, the global economy could see an impact of between $384 billion and $2.633 trillion.

What You Can Do

With productivity and absenteeism the most pressing concerns for the economy during a possible swine flu pandemic, it is little surprise that employers are wondering how to proceed. Do they encourage workers to come in? Or do they try to keep them at home to get over the H1N1 virus faster?

With today’s technology, it is possible to take a different approach. Instead of an either-or situation in which employees are either working or they are not, it is possible to have employees mildly affected by swine flu to work from home. This move can help prevent large drops in productivity, while at the same time reducing the chance that swine flu will spread through a company.

Additionally, there is a reduced need for face-to-face meetings in today’s world. The spread of the H1N1 virus can be slowed with the use of video conferencing and other technological solutions. Indeed, such arrangements can save companies money on travel costs while limiting exposure to the swine flu.

Even though swine flu is expected to be widespread, it is not likely to set things back too far. For intrepid employers it may be that the economy and the swine flu can lead to the adoption of practices that can save money and boost productivity in a way that continues to provide benefits even after flu season.

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