Big drop in South African jobs as coronavirus hits

Early indications of the impact of coronavirus on the global job market are stark, with job advertising dipping steeply in March so far, data from job search engine Adzuna shows.

The group said that Italy has seen the biggest fall in job postings after instituting a complete lockdown. The nation has seen a 40.7% reduction in new job vacancies in the past two weeks.

Austria is the second biggest casualty with 29% job advertisements reductions. This follows a series of drastic measures to contain the outbreak, including exit restrictions across the country. New Zealand and Brazil have also seen more than 20% drops in March so far.

Adzuna’s data shows that the number of job postings for South Africa has already fallen by 7.3% – with the country expected to take more drastic steps to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Across all countries, IT, engineering, legal, hospitality and manufacturing are among the many industries to see a notable decline across the world in March.

IT job vacancies have dropped by more than a fifth (-21.7%), while engineering job vacancies are down 17.5%. Hospitality vacancies have already dropped by 9.1% and the situation is likely to worsen, as government restrictions around social contact start to take hold.

Trade and construction, as well as manufacturing jobs, have also felt the strain with an 8.2% and 7.8% drop respectively.

The travel industry is also predicted to fall due to continued travel restrictions. While travel jobs are down only 14% in South Africa since 1 March, travel vacancies have dropped 58% in the UK alone in the past two weeks, after British Airways, EasyJet and Norwegian air all announced cuts to flights in response to the outbreak.

Adzuna said it  expects travel restrictions to and from South Africa to be ramped up in the following weeks, which will have a major impact on the the industry.

By contrast, the number of part-time and gig jobs have increased significantly in the past two weeks – a common byproduct of a recession and economic uncertainty.

Part-time and gig vacancies have increased by 22.1% in March globally, as employers seek greater flexibility to respond to changes and peaks in demand.

“The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult, we have sadly seen infections increase across the globe and drastic measures put in place to prevent the spread,” said Adzuna co-founder Doug Monro.

“This level of uncertainty, coupled with physical restrictions in movement, has caused an alarming drop in vacancies across the majority of industries, although some like healthcare and delivery-based sectors are growing.”

Job losses

While the true impact of the coronavirus may only be felt months from now, the UN’s International Labor Organisation (ILO) has warned that the pandemic could increase global unemployment by almost 25 million.

However, if we see an internationally coordinated policy response, as happened in the global financial crisis of 2008/9, then the impact on global unemployment could be significantly lower, the group said in a statement earlier this week.

The ILO called for urgent, large-scale and coordinated measures across three pillars: protecting workers in the workplace, stimulating the economy and employment, and supporting jobs and incomes.

“These measures include extending social protection, supporting employment retention (i.e. short-time work, paid leave, other subsidies), and financial and tax relief, including for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, the note proposes fiscal and monetary policy measures, and lending and financial support for specific economic sectors,” it said.

Based on different scenarios for the impact of Covid-19 on global GDP growth, the ILO estimates indicate a rise in global unemployment of between 5.3 million (“low” scenario) and 24.7 million (“high” scenario) from a base level of 188 million in 2019.

By comparison, the 2008-9 global financial crisis increased global unemployment by 22 million.

Underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages.

Self-employment in developing countries, which often serves to cushion the impact of changes, may not do so this time because of restrictions on the movement of people (e.g. service providers) and goods.

Falls in employment also mean large income losses for workers. The study estimates these as being between $860 billion and $3.4 trillion by the end of 2020. This will translate into falls in consumption of goods and services, in turn affecting the prospects for businesses and economies.

Read: South Africa needs policy and tax changes to fight coronavirus: Dawie Roodt

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Big drop in South African jobs as coronavirus hits