Skills development has an important role to play in the immediate effort to lessen the impact of COVID-19 while the pandemic is active, in building the resilience of workers and firms, and in preparing for recovery. Time is of the essence in this response, to help speed recovery from recession, to get people back to work safely, to limit the career scarring effects of prolonged unemployment and skills mismatch, and to take advantage of opportunities that may otherwise dissipate over time. These Rapid Assessment guidelines aim to inform timely and practical action within the constraints of public health and workplace OSH policies. The guidelines focus on three broad types of impact on the labour market, and hence on demand for skills and opportunities for workers, with implications for reskilling and upskilling needs.
The three broad impacts and response components are as follows:
1. Sectors in which COVID-19 has a significantly negative impact on employment in terms of quantity and quality of jobs
The pandemic has had an immediate negative impact on numbers employed, and in many cases on quality of employment, across most economic sectors in most countries, although some have been affected much more severely than others. Globally, the sectors most affected by the pandemic, in terms of loss of output have been wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, real estate, business and administrative activities, and accommodation and food services.2 As economies re-open, some sectors and activities will recover more slowly than others, and, for some, negative effects may continue for a long time. An effective skills development response may make an important impact on the speed at which sectors recover, and the on the extent to which employment is restored. It is important to identify and anticipate the skills needed for recovery and future growth of the worst affected sectors, and to identify practical actions that can be taken to reskill and upskill workers to meet these needs.
2. Sectors and occupations in which COVID-19 increases demand for skills
The pandemic has boosted demand for workers in some areas, for example in manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), in contact tracing, or to raise staffing levels so as to improve resilience against worker absences. Not all of these increases in employment will be sustained, but some require immediate investment in reskilling and upskilling to meet current and future skills needs. While activity in some sectors will recover more slowly or may not recover, demand for some goods and services will increase over pre-pandemic levels as economies re-start and as the pandemic ends or COVID-19 becomes a recurring part of life. For example, there may be a lasting increase in demand for services in a form that can be delivered with reduced close in-person interaction, and for products that limit physical in-person contact in daily life. Moving quickly to take advantage both of existing and new opportunities will be important to rapid economic and social recovery, and to replace employment lost in sectors affected negatively. One of the priorities should be to identify and anticipate the skills needed, and to identify practical actions to meet these needs.
3. Groups of individuals needing training, reskilling and upskilling
As economies recover, there will be large groups of individuals whose employment prospects have been damaged by the pandemic. Skills development will be an important part of the policy offerings needed to get them into employment in decent and stable jobs, and to avoid long term career scarring. Which groups are worst affected and are of highest policy priority will vary between countries. Specific groups to think about include: people in precarious employment whose jobs are likely to be at risk, especially those with weak employment relationships or contractual arrangements; young people entering the labour force who have difficulty finding employment; newly unemployed low skilled workers of all ages in affected industries; newly unemployed workers with medium or high level skills that do not closely match the needs of recovering industries; older workers who are newly unemployed; and informal economy workers facing diminished income- generating opportunities. They may also include groups frequently disadvantaged in the labour market such as women, minority communities, returning migrant workers or internal migrants, refugees, people with disabilities and workers who were already long term unemployed or precariously employed before the pandemic. It is important to identify and anticipate the types of real labour market opportunities available to prioritized groups, to identify what the main gaps are between the skills they have and those needed by employers, to identify practical actions that can be taken to reskill and upskill existing workers to meet these needs, and to bridge skills gaps so as to facilitate transition into work for new labour market entrants.
General methodological approach The general methodological approach has four research components.
1. Background reading by the Rapid Assessment technical team on currently available information relevant to the Rapid Assessment4, along with inputs of information and perspectives from steering group.
2. Survey of enterprises in target sector(s).
3. Survey of individuals in target group(s).
4. Consultations/in-depth interviews with key responsible organizations, policy makers, social partners, and other stakeholders.
The report and its recommendations are based on the research and on the inputs from the organizations represented on the steering committee, explained in the following.