The short-term and long-term implications of the COVID-19 virus on the job market and impact on job securities?
Both locally and globally, unskilled and semi-skilled labour has been hit hard through mandatory furloughs, salary cuts and redundancies. The sectors that have been hit the worst have been hospitality, wholesale and retail, tourism, manufacturing and real estate and transport, especially aviation. Lifting the lockdown is aimed at redressing this, but the impact on unskilled labour is likely to be sustained even post COVID.
The ILO considers the pandemic to be the ‘worst global crisis since the 2nd World War’. Although the battle against the spread of COVID is likely to succeed with sporadic flare-ups and a distinctly possible ‘2nd wave’ towards the end of the year, governments are keen to see a return to work. Nonetheless, unemployment is likely to be a growing problem in the medium term.
Where there has been government protection of jobs and salaries through borrowing at historically low-interest rates, the worst impact of the global recession has yet to be felt even as conditions are ripe for recovery. Supply chains are being reconnected, but the investment may remain sluggish, in spite of the historically low cost of borrowing, due to uncertainty.
Reducing social distancing from 2m to 1m will definitely assist restaurants and the leisure industry, where capacities can return to some 70%, rather than the 30% under current regulations. It will also assist the return to schools, where social distancing flies in the face of both a natural inclination and the values we teach. Collaborative learning is far harder when you cannot ‘huddle’. But these are a matter of adjustment and ways and means will be found to accommodate the regulations. However, if there is a significant flare-up of new cases, the optimism could be short-lived.
The expectation that science, government and the law can ‘cure’ a growing list of 21st-century ills – whether COVID, the environment, social injustice, discrimination, global inequalities – is giving way to an understanding that “we are all responsible” and that through social media, popular sentiment can engage popular action, whether in protest or inaction to effect positive change.
Those able to adapt to remote working have experienced exponential growth in hands-on proficiency and development of practice. There is a greater understanding of the range of apps and software that comprises the new virtual office toolbox.
Labour mobility through traditional job search and recruitment is changing with much of the process of research gathering, communications, interviewing, testing and evaluation now being embedded online with a larger potential market place. This is an extension of existing practice where jobs are contracted out to overseas providers.
In the longer term, and bearing in mind the severity of the economic crash, we are likely to see the following:
The Coronavirus lockdown has brought with it an array of side effects – and some of them are surprisingly positive, what is one good thing in the job market during this pandemic?
A developing responsiveness of both employers and job seekers to new concepts of working and a recognition that upskilling, innovative thinking ‘outside the box’, effective communications and adaptability are essential but also achievable qualities.
What is one thing candidates/job seekers should be cautious of or concerned about?
Post-pandemic, what jobs and which industries will be higher in demand and lower in demand?
There is a need to apply the lessons learned in terms of the value of social entrepreneurship and CSR, with governments and the corporate sector seeking to make social cost/benefit and long-term planning and investment critical to the ‘bottom line’ rather than traditional goals of profit and market share. Public-private sector collaboration is as important as competition.
How can job seekers address their skill gaps to meet the realities and requirements of a post-COVID-19 job market
One benefit of the lockdown has been providing time and opportunity to reflect on one’s own personal and professional development. The excuse ‘if only I had the time…’ rings a little hollow. The first task is to identify what the skills gaps are and how to use time as a resource. This is not as easy as it sounds because it requires a critical understanding of which skills will be in demand in a post-COVID, or ‘second-wave’ environment, rather than those deficits you are already aware of in your profile. Both employers and job seekers need to become more adept at ‘skills mapping’.
Developing a Skills Map
Identify your hard and soft skills needs and how you might address them through self-study and access to online assistance from friends and established providers rather than opportunists.
Critically assess and prioritize key skills, e.g. using Zoom and MS Teams for presentations as well as face-to-face oral communications tools; re-designing your CV to ensure that your new skills profile is more prominent than your career history. Develop a visual focus in your CV, especially online, focusing on the learning journey you are undertaking during the COVID lockdown.
Optimize your personal and professional development timeline so that the focus on upskilling is focused more on breadth than depth, i.e. more on transferability or adaptability of skills to new contexts rather than on advancing existing skills. An example might be developing your social media skills and profile for marketing rather than just making connections or contributing ad hoc to online forums.
Re-assess any KPIs you have and re-design them using benchmarking and SMART targets to evaluate personal and professional growth.
Focus on measuring Return on Engagement, i.e the effective use to time rather than Return on Investment, the effective use of funds. This focuses less on the efficiency of your spending on self-improvement and upskilling but on the use of valuable time.
Re-design your remote work/office space in the same way that you might organize your living space, kitchen; i.e. make it fit for purpose with easy access to the tools and resources you need to make effective use of your time.
Develop an awareness using time and time zones more effectively; i.e. thinking less about ‘ 9-5’ working hours and more about when you can make the most effective use of time throughout a 24 hour period. This is already common practice when online streaming and global trading.
What strategies should the job seekers employ to find and successfully acquire emerging job opportunities remotely?
The creation of virtual organizations and remote work practices has grown many folds during this pandemic. What is the scale with which work is being detached from traditional fixed places of work and what are its consequences for effort, well-being and work-life balance?
The growth of virtual environments for study, work and leisure has been growing steadily, and now exponentially and entrepreneurs working in cyberspace will be more aware of scale than any researcher. One example is how distance learning in Dubai schools has led to an increase in providers offering freebie support during the height of the lockdown emergency in April.
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ – the suspension of international aviation has led to astute event organizers not canceling conferences, exhibitions and job fairs online, where they have been able to reach a far wider audience.
The future implications are huge.
What is the future of remote work?
It is a mistake to either understate or overstate its importance. Blending home-based and office-based working will become increasingly embedded, but this will not apply to manufacturing, leisure services and transport.
Blended learning in education is likely to become an embedded feature of post-COVID education. No school on bad weather days will become a memory. For the more able and diligent students, distance learning has liberated them from the constraints of teacher-led classroom learning. Online communications between home and school may challenge the traditional parent-teacher conference.
People enjoy real rather than online interaction and so being able to ‘go to work’ to make face-to-face contact in real-space is unlikely to be displaced entirely.
In response to today’s rapidly changing job market due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how can job seekers stay focused and energized during this period?
Ensure that they give time to themselves and focus on activities that provide a good balance between physical wellbeing, recreation and work-related activities, including job-seeking. Be systematic in maintaining a routine that engages you in a variety of activities and make time online for family and friends until restrictions are lifted.
Use this time to review and upgrade and personalize your CV and personal profile online, including links to digital evidence of your achievements and suitability for new positions. Take opportunities to upskill and retrain with an accredited online provider, while avoiding ‘quick fix’ solutions.
What is the best piece of advice for job seekers during this period?
Learn the lessons of experience and adjust your mindset to be resilient, innovative, adaptable and critically aware of your self-worth and value on the open market