The world, as we once knew it, is still reeling from the effects of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that came into the picture at the start of the year. As countries experienced multiple lockdowns to protect their citizens, many companies had to cut thousands of jobs, which led to a massive rise in unemployment rates.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate in the UK increased by
0.7% from the previous quarter, with August to October witnessing a 4.9% rate of unemployment. Since businesses, offices, restaurants, and other places had no choice but to close during the lockdown, they realised they were unable to afford so many employees and thus had to lay off large numbers of people, all of which led to the witnessing of 370,000 redundancies during the three months.
The industry that was hit the worst amidst the pandemic was the hospitality industry. With flights and airports shut for some time, bars, hotels, restaurants saw a complete decline in customers, leading to about 300,000 people losing their jobs since the start of the year. With non-essential services also forced to shut, the retail sector, as a whole, had to drop around 160,000 jobs. These figures pertain to full-time staff on the company’s payroll. Additionally, many freelancers and casual workers were hit by these events.
Citizens who managed to retain their jobs in the UK had to face significant salary cuts. The Government tried their best to prevent citizens from getting affected by rolling out schemes that were paying a large part of the workers’ wages if companies or employers were unable to do so. However, the furlough scheme soon dried out by October and companies and offices had to continue letting go of their staff.
The UK government’s economic gurus claim that the rate of unemployment is likely to hit 2.5 million by the end of the year. The number would amount to about 7.5% of the working population of the country. Furthermore, if the UK’s negotiations with the EU don’t go down well, more than the predicted number of jobs may be at risk post in January 2021. However, hopes have begun to soar with the new vaccination programme coming into effect in the United Kingdom.
While people in the UK are keeping their optimism levels high, witnessing an improvement because of the vaccine might be short lived, especially with the coming in of a new strain of the virus surfacing across the globe. Even as the economy reopens and people begin working, the average earning amount, which witnessed a downward spiral during the earlier months, rose by 2.8%. The number of companies putting out vacancies is significantly increasing even though the numbers remain about 30% lower than what they were a year ago. November 2020 saw an increase of 1.4 million people, from the figures of March, claiming universal credit being provided by the government or Jobseeker’s Allowance which are given to those who are unable to get work or are being provided very low wages.
This pandemic has largely hit the UK job market. Before the pandemic, one-third of job vacancies in the UK were hard to fill due to a lack of skilled people. However, with the pandemic, even skilled people who were not supported by their companies had to leave their jobs and try to search for alternate means of livelihood which given the scarcity of vacancies, has not been easy to find. To keep up with the spread of the virus, there were various rules that were implemented by the Government.
There was a massive impact on the market for graduates just entering the workforce, but sectors like IT, healthcare, social care were not hit too badly. With the trend of virtual working seemingly turning into the norm, many feel that this is what the future, even post COVID, is going to consist of. There is likely to be a demand for digital skills and an increasing interest in people having leadership, communication, creative and critical thinking skills.
Some of the areas that have witnessed vacancies that employers found hard to fill, despite having an influx of graduates entering the job market every year, include nurses, medical practitioners, HR and industrial relations officers and software developers. These areas seem to witness a skill shortage. This is why the job market is transforming, and with the increasing competition due to the limited number of vacancies opening up, people must attempt to develop essential skills that will aid them in standing apart from the rest. Besides, most companies carry out background checks before taking in new employees and thus it is best to make sure all affairs are in proper order so that there is nothing to prevent one from bagging the position. Having a very heterogeneous labour market, many specific localities face occupational shortages too. For instance, the bustling city of London provides a lot of support to fields like consultancy, law, sales and marketing thus leading to fewer job vacancies available in these areas. While the North-West of the United Kingdom has vacancies in sales, the North-East is trying to fill vacancies in the fields of nursing, human resource, programming, software developing and industrial relations. The South West, on the other hand, has a lot of vacancies for lawyers and other legal professionals while the West Midlands have a striking shortage in the field of engineering. Since these vacancies usually exist at higher levels, it is a lack of experience that prevents companies from filling these positions. A whopping 46% of employers felt their employees lacked the skills needed to fill these positions.
Thus, while the job market is currently on tenterhooks, it does seem like certain areas continue to have job vacancies that are waiting for grabs the moment things begin to ease up. What is important at the moment is for people to work on developing and improving their skills so that as the economy begins to open up once again, it will be easier to apply for these available positions that for so long have been in the ‘hard-to-fill’ category.