Disruptions in the job market

3 minutes

Montreal centre-ville

The covid-19 crisis will transform more than just one market, and that of employment is no exception. In urban centres, big and small players alike, in every sector of activity, need to change their expectations towards each other to successfully recover.

“All social change brings gains for some and losses for others,” emphasizes Mircea Vultur, a researcher at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS). “We’re about to see some creative destruction, meaning that many jobs in certain sectors will be lost, while others will be created,” she continues. The labour shortage that was raging in Quebec was shaken up by the pandemic, so while some companies have been able to play their cards right in order to recruit some of the unemployed, others have taken a hit.

Consider particularly the cultural, tourism, and restaurant sectors, which have been deeply affected by the economic crisis. On the other hand, technology companies have experienced flourishing growth. In the eye of the storm are those workers deemed “essential,” who are hoping to benefit from the springboard the pandemic has offered them. “The health crisis has brought about a positive re-evaluation of certain jobs in terms of the social hierarchy: from orderlies to those who benefit from the work of grocery store clerks, we’re collecti­vely recognizing that we need to change salaries based on the social contributions of occupations,” states Vultur.

Humans first


For many workers, the pandemic has been an opportunity to reflect on their professional goals. “The turnover rate in Quebec for a job is two years. And you should know that the dissatisfaction rate is high,” explains Bourama Keita, a job counsellor at Montreal’s downtown Carrefour jeunesse-emploi. This constant churn, which had already started before the crisis, seems to be even more present now that the economy has restarted.

While some people have appreciated having a more flexible work-family balance, others have experienced a lack of guidance from their employers, which has pushed them to seek work elsewhere. But Elisabeth Starenkyj, a senior partner at La Tête Chercheuse, is putting her money on remote working, a trend that will now become a must on the part of job seekers. “It’s hard to see how employers can believe that all of their staff will return permanently 100 percent of the time. Remote working and work-family balance isn’t just a whim on the part of employees, it’s now become a reality,” she insists, adding that the pandemic will change the perspective of even the most reactionary of managers. The formula in the future may well be a hybrid schedule with a few days at home and a few days in the office.

The office, therefore, may become a space where you will actually collaborate, discuss, and work as a team, which is what makes businesses prosper. “We needed this particular moment, when individuals can distinguish themselves, develop their leadership, their ability to listen,” continues Starenkyj, who doesn’t foresee the complete death of the workplace as it existed pre-pandemic. But rethinking offices in order to make them places that employees want to be in is the challenge now faced by managers.

The power of digital


Employers, for their part, will be looking for new skills. In particular, versatility, curiosity, adaptability, and creativity will become the drivers of success. Young people will be asked to change their professions and fields of expertise two or three times over the course of their careers in the economy of the future, states Mircea Vultur. “As long as you’re able to renew your skills, you’ll be a winner in the employment market,” says the sociologist. Starenkyj is in complete agreement. “Jobs with a single function don’t exist anymore,” she states. And as you can pro­bably guess, the new skills sought after by managers
are almost all digital.

The pandemic has demonstrated the unrivalled power of online communication and information technologies, which are now indispensable even amongst the slowest adop­ters. “Technological innovation has given companies a resistance factor. In 1960 or 1980, this crisis would have been a huge disaster,” contends Vultur. But this trend towards remote working has a cost, and it lies in the development of employee autonomy. Employees need to be invested with the tools, trust, and training they need to work well at home. “When you’re talking about teleworking, you’re talking about skill development. We have this pervasive idea that all young people are connected, but that’s not necessarily true,” states Keita.

Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that youth, and particularly young women, will bear the costs of this economic crisis. For graduates who will need to stand out in a highly competitive marketplace their first year after receiving their diploma, it’s a tough challenge. “We need to think about them, the government needs to pay more attention to them to facilitate their integration into the job market,” laments Keita.