The COVID-19 health crisis has turned into a global economic crisis, putting at risk the health, jobs and incomes of millions of people around the world. The strict containment measures adopted by many countries first half of 2020 to flatten the rise in contagion put a substantial brake on most economic and social activities. The Covid-19 outbreak in India and the subsequent nationwide lockdown from March 25 altered the landscape of the country’s employment sector. With close to 10.9 million jobs being lost across sectors, 2020 was termed the worst-ever year for the job market in India. Among the various sectors, aviation, hospitality and travel were the worst hit due to the lockdown. Indians were forced to stay home and these sectors either sent their employees on ‘leave without pay’ or laid them off. However, the healthcare (due to Covid-19 related growth) and education (e-learning) sectors saw a positive impact from the lockdown with close to 0.4 million new jobs being created in these segments according to industry estimates.

In total, HR consultants estimate that 1 million jobs were created in 2020, with the July-December period seeing the highest recruitment. There is no data available on the absolute number of jobs lost or employment created in India. However, various surveys by recruitment platforms and research agencies showed that the Unlock phase from June 2020 led to a partial recovery, though the job market stayed volatile throughout 2020. The volume of online job postings dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic and the introduction of COVID-19 related containment measures. In the second half of March 2020, job vacancies advertised on line in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States declined sharply and by early May, the volume of online job vacancies had fallen by over 50% in all five countries compared to the beginning of the year. Data show that the drop was widespread, affecting almost all sectors and occupations in the five economies. By the end of December, the drop in online job postings was still very evident in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The changing nature of work due to COVID-19 containment measures led to an increase in the share of job postings advertising “working from home” as a required condition. This result is consistent with the widespread use of remote working practices in the five countries examined, in the effort to sustain economic activity and overcome limitations to operations due to sheltering-in-place orders or recommendations. The COVID-19 crisis has had more adverse impacts on the demand for jobs requiring lower qualifications, but not in all countries. For example, by the end of April in Australia and the United Kingdom the volume of job postings requiring low levels of education (secondary or lower) fell by around 40% whereas those for high skilled workers (Master or Doctorate degrees) by around 25%. In the United States and Canada, however, differences across educational levels are less marked.

Demand for workers in ‘front-line’ sectors, or in those involved in the management of the COVID 19 pandemic, was very strong as demonstrated by either a growing number of jobs advertised or a less steep decline in postings relative to other sectors. For example, in all five countries analysed, online job postings in the healthcare sector and other “essential” sectors such as retail trade, grew above their levels in January and February 2020. Conversely, vacancies published on line declined substantially in sectors that had to shut down due to government-imposed social distancing restrictions, such as leisure and hospitality. As many as 41 lakh youth in India lost jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic with most job losses in the construction and farm sector, according to a joint report by the International Labour Organization and the Asian Development Bank. “For India, the report estimates job loss for 4.1 million youth. Construction and agriculture have witnessed the major job losses among seven key sectors,” the report said. It calls on governments in the region to adopt urgent, large-scale and targeted measures to generate jobs for the youth, keep education and training on track, and to minimise future scarring of more than 660 million young people in the region. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, youth in Asia and the Pacific faced challenges in the labour market, resulting in high unemployment rates .

“The pre-crisis challenges for youth are now amplified since Covid-19 hit. Without sufficient attention, our fear is that this risks creating a ‘lockdown generation’ that could feel the weight of this crisis for many years to come,” said Sara Elder, lead author of the report and head of the ILO Regional Economic and Social Analysis unit. The report cites three ways in which young people are affected. Job posting activity across various sectors in the last quarter has increased by 4%, even as March 2021 witnessed a drop of 2% as compared to February this year, the Monster Employment Index, conducted by has found. However, certain industries witnessed significant growth in the month as compared to February. These include courier/freight/transportation which grew 19% month-on-month, printing and packaging, which showed an increase of 5%, and office equipment/automation, which also increased by 5%. Moreover, in terms of year-on-year growth as compared to March 2020, agro-based industries grew 12%, while logistics/courier grew 9%. Telecom/ISP marked an year-on-year increase of 8%, while IT hardware and software increased by 5%. A positive month-on-month trend in job postings was noticed in Bengaluru and Pune, which saw an uptrend of 2% and 1%, respectively.

The year-on-year trend indicates that job postings for entry-level profiles declined by 16% in March 2021, while the postings seeking professionals having over 15 years of experience rose by a whopping 27%. These widely varying trends are indicative of how, while employment is on its way to recovery in India, there is still a long way to go before pre-COVID levels can be achieved. This is evident by disparity in the figures of growth and figures of decline in the industries. The index also shows the tough path that fresh graduates are facing, considering the sharp decline the entry-level job postings have seen.

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