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People have found new jobs during coronavirus crisis, but in the same field

Some sectors have been hard hit by the pandemic, whereas others have grown. Yet there was no influx of workers from shrinking to growing sectors. This is the conclusion of research by economists from Leiden University. They published their results in the journal Economisch Statistische Berichten.

For the analysis the researchers used the Spolisbus data file from Statistics Netherlands (CBS). This contains data about people’s jobs based on what the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) terms its Polisadministratie (data on the wages, allowances and contracts of all employees in the Netherlands). They used the information from the end of 2019 to mid-2021.

Move to a similar job

Their analysis shows that during the coronavirus crisis the job market shrunk considerably in the hospitality industry, the temp industry and the sport and recreation sector. In contrast, the number of jobs increased in healthcare, social services, public administration and education. What stands out is that people who previously worked in a shrinking sector switched to a similar job. They moved from the hotel sector to cafés and restaurants, for example. The same can be seen in the growth sectors. New staff in the nursing sector (nursing homes and day-care centres with overnight stays) came from the healthcare sector (hospitals and medical centres).

The future

This shows that few employees have retrained for other types of work as a result of the pandemic. ‘Employees probably think that they’ll be able to return to their old job once the coronavirus crisis is over and therefore don’t change career,’ says Olaf van Vliet, Professor of Economics at Leiden University.

‘We shouldn’t be over-optimistic about the extent to which people are willing to retrain.’

The pandemic is a unique situation on the job market, but the researchers believe that major structural change will happen fast in the future, due to digitalisation, for instance. Van Vliet: ‘What we are seeing now means we shouldn’t be over-optimistic about the extent to which people are willing to retrain and switch to a completely different job.’

Rapid recovery

That employees mainly choose a job in the same field helps explain why growing sectors are currently having difficulty finding new staff. Another explanation is that shrinking sectors recovered quickly once the coronavirus measures were eased. Van Vliet: ‘We expect the hospitality industry to shrink again now that it is closed in the evening. The positive news is that once the measures are eased, the recovery should be quick again.’

See the publication in Economische Statistische Berichten or the PDF on the right-hand side of this page (in Dutch).

Text: Dagmar Aarts

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