The short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the jobs market
The UK jobs market has experienced unprecedented changes over the past few months as a consequence of the global Coronavirus pandemic. And though the media is rife with stories about big businesses suffering due to the effects of COVID-19, there’s also uncertainty about what’s in store for freelancers, contractors and the flexible workforce as we tentatively emerge from lockdown.
To gain a better understanding of what this all means, we’ve looked at some of the ways COVID-19 has impacted independent workers and explored what the future could look like for this increasingly important sector of the jobs market.
What happened to the jobs market during the crisis?
A recent report by REC and KPMG investigated the current state of the workforce in an attempt to shine a light on what the jobs market looks like presently and what might lie ahead. Currently, falls in the demand for temporary workers have been observed in every industry except nursing, medical and care, which have undeniably been relied upon heavily as a result of the pandemic.
The industries with the sharpest declines in demand were retail and hospitality, which is somewhat unsurprising. In May, there was also an increase in availability for temporary roles across all UK regions, as businesses cut costs and scaled back. Though the forecast is still unclear, the impact of COVID-19 on retail and hospitality suggests that the recovery will be slow.
What impact has this had?
According to a study by CWJobs, tech-based roles are more in demand now than ever before, as companies strive to accommodate the shift to remote working. More specifically, the need for infrastructure, IT support, cybersecurity and programmers has been observed. This statistic is positive news at least for the reported 653,000 IT freelancers, contractors and self-employed professionals in the UK.
Additionally, recruiter, Hays, has predicted that the post-Coronavirus era of work will call for four key skills:
- Data literacy – being able to understand and enhance data is vital as businesses assess the needs of customers. This means skills such as Google Analytics, Microsoft Excel and the ability to visualise this data are expected to become increasingly important.
- Adaptability and flexibility – apart from tech-focused skills, soft skills which involve different ways of communicating with one another are highly attractive to businesses. This focus means that freelancers and contractors will need to learn new skills quickly, show a willingness to embrace change and improve existing skillsets where required.
- Emotional intelligence – businesses are also looking for candidates to illustrate compassion, empathy and loyalty in the working environment.
What might lie ahead for the jobs market?
It seems that almost all workers have been impacted to some extent by the pandemic. A JobsOutlook survey revealed that 31% of employers reduced the hours of their workforce in the year to May 2020, while 17% had reduced their pay or earnings. In comparison, 11% had reduced hours and just 2% had reduced pay or earnings in the year to March, before the lockdown measures were introduced.
However, figures also showed that between April and May, short-term demand for temporary workers increased slightly. Similarly, medium-term demand for both permanent and temporary staff grew. Coupled with the increase in employers’ intentions to hire staff again in the next three months, these promising figures could signal that demand is beginning to increase once more, albeit tentatively.
While the present climate and the future of work may look uncertain for freelancers and contractors, independent working is perceived as here to stay. And help is also available. To find out what support you may be entitled to during this time, contact Parasol’s expert team.