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Will coronavirus have lasting labour market effects? Cedefop seeks answers

Cedefop is designing the second wave of its European skills and jobs survey (ESJS) to include questions aimed at discovering whether the coronavirus effects on the EU labour market will be permanent.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an unequal impact on economic sectors and jobs in Europe, much of this related to the different degree to which they were exposed to digital technologies in previous years. Cedefop’s first European skills and jobs survey, a state-of-the-art survey of EU adult workers, revealed a marked variation in technological and digital exposure among EU jobs (Figure).

Five years on, given the pre-existing digital divide, the ability of those digital laggards to sustain continued operation via remote meetings, ICT-based work and online customer interaction (e.g. e-commerce) is likely to have been constrained, further accentuating the negative impact of the pandemic on their work and incomes.

Technological change and at least moderate digital skill needs by sector, % of EU-27 + UK jobs

Source: Cedefop’s first European skills and jobs survey (ESJS).

The ESJS is carried out in all EU Member States to obtain timely information on the skill requirements of jobs and the skill mismatch of the EU adult workforce. A first wave, carried out in 2014, collected information from about 49 000 EU adult workers and enabled deeper understanding of the complexities and drivers of qualification and skill mismatch in EU labour markets, and in-depth understanding of how workers’ skills may adapt to changing skill needs over time, informing the development of the European Commission’s New skills agenda for Europe.

Focus on digitalisation and coronavirus

A second wave, in the first half of 2021, will address the ongoing policy debate about the impact of digitalisation on jobs and the nature of work, as well as heightened concerns about what may be a long-term effect of the coronavirus crisis on EU jobs and skills.

The new ESJS will collect comparative information from EU Member States on the impact of technological change and digitalisation on workers’ job tasks and skill mismatch, and their readiness to adapt by investing in online learning. The survey, currently in its final design stages, will aim to produce new statistics and research on several issues of concern for policy-makers and citizens who are facing the reality of a potentially lasting imprint of the pandemic on EU labour markets.

The second ESJS will aim to provide answers to several key policy questions.

  • Did EU workers lose their job or adjust their hours during the pandemic?
  • Are EU workers permanently doing more remote work after the crisis?
  • Did the pandemic promote the sustained use of online courses?
  • Did EU workers learn and use new digital technologies for their work?
  • Have EU workers engaged in multiple jobs, including online work on platforms, to cover income losses caused by the crisis?
  • Did digital skill gaps inhibit their ability to cope during the crisis?

Cedefop will be publishing the first insights from the new ESJ survey in the second half of 2021.