The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a historic economic recession with significant consequences for employment and, in turn, immigration and skills policy. While it remains to be seen how lasting the pandemic’s effects will be on the worst-hit sectors, such as hospitality, leisure, and tourism, the crisis appears to be entrenching existing weaknesses in European labour markets. For example, people working in low-paid, more precarious jobs have been harder hit than workers in more highly skilled positions, with a disproportionate impact on certain demographic groups, such as immigrants, women, and older people.
While it remains to be seen how lasting the pandemic’s effects will be on the worst-hit sectors … the crisis appears to be entrenching existing weaknesses in European labour markets.
The high levels of unemployment wrought by the crisis, coupled with ongoing disruptions to global migration and travel, will make it harder to address the pervasive skills and labour challenges Europe was already facing before the pandemic hit. Several European countries are projected to experience a population contraction (as their residents age) and reduced labour supply (as older workers leave the workforce). At the same time, Europe’s skills needs are changing rapidly. The knowledge economy is growing quickly, and structural and technological changes are simultaneously driving a contraction in middle-skilled jobs and increasing demand for workers at both ends of skills spectrum—those in high-skilled ‘good’ jobs and in less-skilled, more precarious ‘bad’ jobs.
In recent years, the European Union and several of its Member States have introduced policies designed to upskill residents and attract skilled workers from outside Europe. But achieving these objectives hinges on sustained investments to improve education and training (including participation in reskilling and upskilling initiatives) and to ensure that immigrants are able to successfully integrate into the labour market—the latter may prove challenging to prioritize in a context of high unemployment and constrained budgets.
Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to disrupt labour markets but not fundamentally alter the longer-term trends and challenges facing Europe. Failure to sufficiently invest in skills now may well have implications for how and how quickly their economies recover. Alongside investments in building the skills of resident workers, migration is likely to continue to play a role in meeting labour market needs—even in the short term for high-priority roles such as health- and social-care workers—and in ensuring Europe can remain competitive. But at a time when many people are acutely feeling the pain of the recession and high unemployment, policymakers should take steps to clearly communi-cate the rationale behind labour migration policies and demonstrate their continued commitment to supporting their residents, both native and foreign born, in this challenging economic environment.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ COVID-19 and the demand for labour and skills in Europe: early evidence and implications for migration policy