The true impact of the global unemployment crisis
The events triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic during the last year have led most of us to evaluate our lives, and in some cases, our careers. Many have done so by choice; others have needed to do so in order to survive.
Stringent and unprecedented measures were required to contain the pandemic and avoid the collapse of public health systems. Whilst these containment measures differed, and countries have been impacted to varying degrees, the resulting global unemployment crisis is a problem to be solved together.
The global unemployment challenge
Right now, some countries are emerging from lengthy lockdowns, but others are being placed in third wave restrictions. The OECD reports that the global unemployment rate in February 2021 stood at 6.7 percent, which was 1.4 percentage points higher than February 2020. Among those countries hardest hit is Mexico, which has seen a 46% decline in total hours worked amongst its economically active population. It was closely followed by Italy and Turkey who both experienced a loss in working hours of over 35%. The next three countries with the largest drop were Canada (28%), the United States (23%) and the United Kingdom (22%). Across the world, the decline was six times steeper than the economic fallout from the global financial crisis in 2008.
Recovery strategies for displaced workers and industries
Opinions on the length of recovery time for the global economy are mixed, as you might expect. It may be difficult to gain a complete overview of the global problem until each country has defeated the virus to the same level. Before the second and third waves of infections took hold in most countries, the Harvard Business Review reported optimistically on a faster-than-expected recovery, even stating that in the US and other territories there had been a return to pre-crisis levels.
It also preached caution, noting that recovery may not be a continuous upward trend. As this warning has been borne out, it’s now pertinent to look at labor market solutions in pandemic situations that will cope with – or even thrive on – an uncertain future.
Next generation interventions enabled by advanced skills matching
An important factor in overall recovery levels will be the direction of resources towards the industries and individuals most in need. There are many public employment service interventions that individual governments and regions can use to start helping those whose industries have been disproportionately affected by lack of mobility and demand.
WCC CEO Jan Jansen explains, “The most advanced solutions for public employment services have long used big data to inform labor market strategy. Now, using the right software to support these interventions is critical for all, as we continue on an uncertain trajectory to recovery. We must support economically active individuals to transition into different roles. Traditionally, services have relied on job titles and responsibilities that find adjacent matches to their current or previous roles instead of utilizing their transferable skills. Advanced taxonomies can signpost jobseekers to roles they hadn’t considered before, by interpreting free text content to reveal their whole skillset.”
Fast solutions for geographically sensitive issues
Gap analysis has always been a useful tool as economies undergo natural transformation and industries use technology to drive efficiency and automation. Now, it’s a quick solution that can be applied, as the viability of particular sectors and careers is impacted by fluctuating demand as a result of pandemic measures. At WCC our experience lies in the rapid formation of system prototypes that can address different unemployment scenarios within labor markets, that may be specific to an individual region or economy. These prototypes can perform an advanced gap analysis that may reveal that the distance between one job to another isn’t as far as previously thought.
Governments can provide a rapid route from one career into another by producing a clear checklist for training and knowledge development against a closely matched profession, making career change within reach for many. Combined with up-to-date labor market data and domain knowledge, this could be one of the smartest tools at a government’s disposal to lead them into recovery.
Facing the future with confidence and autonomy
Some of the resulting career moves are completely unexpected. Jobs that take place in opposite environments, can in fact require very similar skillsets. For example, with the airline industry currently almost at a standstill, pilots have found alternative work on the ground. Quite literally. Australia’s agricultural sector had been experiencing a shortfall in available harvesters who usually arrive from overseas, often as backpackers. Then, one enterprising farmer looked for a creative solution to the problem. A quick analysis showed Amanda Thomas that the complexities of mastering and manoeuvring a large vehicle safely and with pinpoint accuracy made pilots the ideal candidates to operate farming machinery. Now, Pilots4Harvest’s Facebook group has over 800 members and counting.
For years, workers have feared the day that automation of their roles spelled the end of their careers. Instead, it should be an opportunity to try new things and start afresh, with the option to re-engage with previous roles as they return. As we move to continuous learning and multiple careers over a lifetime, the challenges brought about by the pandemic can be used to support employment, under-resourced sectors and widen access to well paid, autonomous work.
A wealth of experience
With more than 20 years of experience in the employment domain, WCC is a leading provider of knowledge-driven IT solutions. By understanding the demands of a rapidly changing labor market, we can help employment services respond to change, guide jobseekers to sustainable job opportunities, and reduce unemployment.
For more information about our employment software solutions, please get in touch – wherever you are in the world.