Our new Zoom reality has taught us all the importance of a decent internet connection. It isn’t just crucial to the way many of us do our current jobs, it’s also how we find new ones.
In ye olden days, a peasant had to hope their cousin’s cousin knew about a decent job in a neighbouring village. But the interweb makes it much easier to find vacancies offering the type of work we’re after. That should mean better matches, with more workers finding the right jobs so they stick at them, are more productive and earn more. That’s been the view of economists, with research on Norway broadband rollout, for example, finding it led to higher wages and significantly lower unemployment.
But a new study on Germany challenges this, finding no impact on the quality of job matching from the recent spread of high-speed internet. The problem? Fast internet means we all get a better idea of what jobs are out there, and the unemployed do find work more quickly. But the ease of applying online results in a quadrupling of candidates for every job. This problem has probably grown as online recruitment has become the norm. We should have seen this coming. The internet repeatedly teaches us that we can have too much of a good thing and that the peasants always knew a bigger haystack made it harder to find the needle.
• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org