COVID and Public Employment Services (PES) – Need to be agile, quickly adapt to the new situation and adjust their response frequently and flexibly to respond to unpredictable developments

Strengthening labour market resilience also requires stronger institutional capacity to scale up key measures quickly, while maintaining service quality. This implies that when a crisis hit, the policy infrastructure should already be in place and can be scaled up quickly. Evidence suggests that implementation and delivery failures during the COVID-19 crisis were more common where emergency solutions had to be created from scratch.

Source: OECD Employment Outlook 2020 – OECD

Public and private providers of employment services (PES for short) play an important role in keeping labour markets functioning during this crisis. In order to fulfil this particularly challenging role, PES need to be agile, quickly adapt to the new situation and adjust their response frequently and flexibly to respond to unpredictable developments. On the one hand, PES face an unparalleled inflow of new jobseekers, but cannot meet with their clients in person due to confinement restrictions. On the other hand, the number of job offers is dwindling in many sectors, leaving PES with fewer vacancies to propose. Nonetheless, some sectors, such as certain medical services and agriculture are confronted with severe labour shortages. As the economic impact of the crisis further unfolds, labour demand will possibly shift further across sectors and regions.

PES around the world have to adapt their way of working and their strategy in the short and medium termto help limit the labour market consequences of the COVID-19crisis.

Digital services are a key element to the short-and medium-term response by PES. Those that hadfull-fledged digital tools in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak are in a better situation now: the process for benefit applications can remain unchanged and support to jobseekers via distant communication can continue seamlessly. Digitalisation cannot be built up in the short-term, in particular in view of the large inflows of jobseekers.

This policy brief reviews the different country experiences in adapting PES’s operations to the unprecedented confinement situation, and provides guidance on how PES can best cope with the short-term challenges, while paving the way to the medium-term strategies that will need to be adopted.

Key messages for public employment services

  • Agile and pro-active public employment services (PES)are needed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Prevent unemployment through the facilitated use of short-time work (STW) schemes.
  • Prioritise and streamline unemployment benefit application procedures while scaling down and suspending other non-essential services in the short term.
  • Adjust job-search requirements and monitoring in line with countries’ capacities to hold these up and gradually increase job-search monitoring as soon as the situation improves.
  • Encourage jobseekers to remain active by providing timely career information and guidance services, offering online training courses, updating information on job vacancies and facilitating matching.
  • Ensure all clients can register with PES and access PES services, by offering phone support to those who cannot use online channels and advertising all communication channels widely.
  • Adapt PES operating models, use resources efficiently, maintain cooperation and communication with the key stakeholders and partners.
  • Prepare for exiting confinement and set up medium-and longer-term strategies to address possible high caseloads and a new composition of clients.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Public employment services in the frontline for jobseekers, workers and employers


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