COVID-19

British job market changes due to the pandemic

February 9, 2021
6 min read

What is happening on the job market due to the pandemic and the economic crisis? Is it possible to find a job in the UK right now? And what to do if you are thinking of changing careers?

The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has changed absolutely every sector of the labour market.

Firstly, the demand on the labour market is changing. It is hard to find a job in the industries affected by the lockdown, such as HoReCa and entertainment. But the number of tech jobs (despite the initial fall) increased by 36% over the summer of 2020. This includes jobs across almost every sector: the pandemic forced many companies to accelerate their digital transformation.

Healthcare obviously has had the most stable demand for labour last year. And the lack on the supply side worsened by Brexit hasn’t helped. Of course, it is impossible to train doctors fast enough to fill the shortage internally. But it is a great opportunity for qualified people who would like to immigrate to Britain to do so now.

Also healthcare is not just about doctors: it involves research, manufacturing, logistics, real estate, construction and legal support. Whatever your background, it is worth keeping an eye on health-related opportunities.

Some of these changes may reverse when the quarantine and crisis are over. However, it may take some time. Specialists in all the areas will have to decide what they want to do.

Secondly, the geography of work is changing dramatically because of the massive shift to remote work. Only a handful of large tech companies have switched to remote-forever work. The rest are still weighing up the risks and benefits. Some employees, however, enjoy the flexibility of working from home and would prefer not to go back to on-site. More and more candidates say that they would like to work a few days a week from home or 1-2 months a year from another country.

The most flexible London businesses are starting to hire people from the UK regions with lower living costs. It’s a win-win: more talent for employers at lower cost and more jobs available to candidates living outside London.

Thirdly, more people are thinking about starting a new career. According to studies, one in two employees in Britain considers a career switch. Those are not only people who are unemployed or at risk of redundancy, but also people with stable jobs. It is inspiring that despite the crisis and uncertainty people are not clinging to their jobs. They are ready to consider a career change.

There are several reasons for this. At the root of some is remote work again. Working from home has cut down socialising during the working day. This has greatly affected the sense of belonging for those who derived it mainly from socialising with their colleagues. They are now seeking personal impact and connection with the company’s mission.

Working remotely has also shown the importance of being flexible and having a work-life balance. Some people are now willing to keep this freedom and search for jobs with flexible hours or move to self-employment.

The pandemic has also undermined many people’s mental health, which made them reflect on what makes them unhappy. And job dissatisfaction is one of the known depression factors.

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel

Is it possible to find a job during the pandemic?

The short answer is yes. But it depends.

Certain professions now have fewer jobs to offer. For example, blue-collar workers — café workers, shop assistants, manufacturing and construction workers — may struggle to find a job. Many people in these jobs have been made redundant or sent on furlough. If they ever thought of a career change before, now may be a good time to start a new career. It is not easy, but even with limited time and money small first steps are possible.

There are also professional areas with a low entry threshold, where demand for labour has temporarily increased. For example, couriers or call centre staff. One may benefit from finding a temporary job in these areas. This way they can just wait out the pandemic period and return to their regular occupation when it is over.

Despite all the turmoil, the pandemic period, just like any crisis, is a time of opportunity. As I mentioned, the demand in the technology areas has only increased. Even before the pandemic there had been a ‘skills gap’ in tech. During 2020 this gap between the demand for labour and the availability of skills to meet it only increased. The good news is that the demand for quality candidates has only increased as a result.

But even though the labour market is experiencing a shortage of skills, employers are less likely to hire average candidates. The challenges of the pandemic made companies shift their focus to employee productivity. Self-motivation skills also became a must due to working from home. That is why the requirements have generally become stricter. Even if you are in a high-demand role, it may take you a longer time to find a job.

I recommend those looking for a job to really sharpen their value proposition. They should communicate it to their potential employers very clearly at every job search stage. They should also look for jobs that require the qualities they are uniquely good at. Wojo provides multiple tools to perfect this process.

Photo by Inset Agency

What career opportunities can London offer to newcomers?

London has always been a financial centre. In the past few years, it has begun to reclaim its place as a tech capital too. Its position is especially strong in financial technology. But it’s hard to say for sure if London will continue to develop in this direction after Brexit and the pandemic.

In 2020, London’s population decreased by 700,000 people, or 8%. That’s a lot. It is difficult to build an industrial cluster if talents do not find the city attractive. However, working from home may fix this if it becomes even more popular.

Secondly, large tech companies have been moving some of their teams from the USA to the UK over the past few years. In my opinion, this may have been partly due to Trump’s policies, so this trend may slow down soon.

Thirdly, London is still an attractive capital market for start-ups, and I do not expect it to change in the next few years.

To sum up, finance, including real estate, financial technology and start-ups are good entry points for newcomers.

It is also important that London is a very international city. And those moving here from any country can easily find their compatriots. Expat communities often support each other, including with job search. A good first job can also be one that requires one’s native language or home country business experience.

The first job is often the most difficult one. After that, newcomers start to compete for jobs on a par with the locals. And that’s when London offers an almost unlimited number of possible career paths.

This article was originally published in ZIMA Magazine.

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