Pandemic brings lay-offs, but transforms labour market

Firms better prepared for third wave, experts say.

Gastronomy belonged to the hardest-hit sectors in the second pandemic wave.Gastronomy belonged to the hardest-hit sectors in the second pandemic wave. (Source: SME)

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Slovakia’s economy as restrictions, including strict lockdowns have impacted all sectors. As businesses have been forced to adjust and adopt new ways of working over the last 18 months, the country’s labour market has changed, too.

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“The first wave was quick, surprising, and we weren’t ready,” said Ivan Zizič of the Elanor company, which specialises in payroll and HR. “On the other hand, the second wave was longer, much stronger, and companies started making strategic changes.”

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The second wave began in the early autumn of 2020 and gradually intensified in the winter. A strict lockdown was eventually imposed towards the end of the year and remained in place for months.

The restrictions – restaurants, cafés, hotels, and many shops were almost completely shuttered – had a devastating effect on some sectors, and many firms laid off staff. Businesses in the gastronomy, hotel, and tourism industries were among those worst affected.

At the same time, the pandemic accelerated some changes in the labour market, particularly the transformation of jobs. Home office working was suddenly no longer a perk but the new normal, and experts are already predicting that in the future, many employers will offer as standard to their employees a hybrid work regime combining working from home and in the office.

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As the third pandemic wave continues to intensify, businesses are expected to be better prepared to deal with the fall-out than in the two previous waves.

“The third wave will only confirm the readiness of companies,” said Zizič, adding the vaccination will play a role, too.

Unemployment peaked in second wave

The registered unemployment rate peaked in the second wave at 8 percent in April 2021. At the time, a lockdown was in place limiting operations in several sectors.

People working in services and retail were more likely to lose their jobs as labour costs were among the first expenditures employers looked to cut, Matej Horňák, an analyst with Slovenská Sporiteľňa bank, explained.

Many of those laid off from the tourism sector, gastronomy or hotel industry found jobs as shop assistants or in the industrial production sector, while others moved to sectors like transport and logistics.

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