Historical Impacts of Outbreaks on the Economy and Job Market



  • COVID-19 is not the first pandemic we have seen in history 
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US projected that up to 40% of the workforce will be unable to work due to Swine Flu in 2009 
  • MERS outbreak in 2012 cost South Korea a $2.6billion loss in the tourism industry 
  • Now, 1.6 billion people are at risk for unemployment all over the world due to COVID-19 
  • Taking job search, candidate search, and even on-boarding online will be the best and safest approach to recruitment in the “new normal” 


In times of plague, he of good health is king. This remains as relevant as it was in history as it is today. 

The 20th century and contemporary human history both have had multiple instances of mass illness, a few of which are regarded as some of the deadliest ever. Consider the Spanish Flu which began in the spring of 1918 and lasted until the summer of 1919. Due to lapses in medical record-keeping, the exact death toll is not known and is estimated to be somewhere from 17 million to 100 million.  


Swine Flu and the changes in customer behavior 

The Swine Flu pandemic came in 2009, while economies were still dealing with the previous year’s housing recession and an already downtrodden economy. The outbreak brought about change in societal spending habits and behaviour, but certainly not as disruptive as the precautionary measures implemented for COVID-19.  

In response to the Swine Flu threat, workplaces were urged to prepare for extended periods of closure, mass employee absences, and upsurge of patients in health institutions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US projected that up to 40% of the workforce may be unable to work because of circumstances brought upon by the pandemic.  

Interestingly, analysis showed that it was not the deaths caused by the virus or the periods of fluctuating employment that disrupted the economy the most but the changes in customer behavior and spending habits that left a lasting impact on the market. 


SARS and MERS and the tourism sector 

There was also the SARS Outbreak which lasted from 2002 to 2004, just a few years prior to the Swine Flu pandemic. Most of the cases reported came from Southeast Asia, and China in particular where the first one was identified. Due to fear of the virus, countries all over the world, rushed to adopt policies in order to mitigate the health risks currently threatening the workforce. The MERS Outbreak in 2012 incited a similar reaction from countries all over the globe. In terms of economic damage, the MERS-CoV dealt a heavy blow to the tourism sector the most, leading to revenue deficits like South Korea’s $2.6 billion loss. 

COVID-19 and the “Great Lockdown”  

The latest — and arguably one of the most disruptive — of these outbreaks is COVID-19. As of writing, there have been more than 6 million confirmed cases worldwide, with mortalities over 370,000 . The worldwide response to this mass infection is reminiscent of previous measures, but in greater scale. The global economy is already thought to be in recession due to the “Great Lockdown”.  

One of the most important numbers right now is 1.6 billion. It represents the number of people that is projected to be at risk of unemployment. As economies worldwide find their growth interrupted and sweeping changes in the business landscape are felt, billions of workers find their employment at risk. For young professionals and fresh graduates, the job search may take a little longer.  


The job search during the pandemic 

Where should one find work? There are online apps and websites that continue to connect applicants with potential jobs, and some also offer you a chance for extra income to be a scout and refer people for a job. Recruitday, one of these leading recruitment platforms, has a number of job openings for companies still on the lookout for talent even during these times. Online applications are the safest way to conduct job searches right now and perhaps even post-pandemic, as the new normal shapes up to be digital-first. 


The economy is at a standstill and may continue to show sluggish growth for months or even years. As governments and businesses rebuild, the need for talent will continue to rise. Online recruitment platforms remain one of the best tools to take advantage of in making sure that the talent acquisition process stays effective even through the current crisis.  



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