Labour market after the COVID-19 crisis: What professional skills will women need? 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the global economy. Companies were forced to send workers home, transfer some of them to part-time work, while others have been laid off and not called back. Unlike any other modern recession, the downturn triggered by the COVID pandemic has created larger employment losses among women than men – and it is a global trend. In Ukraine, the number of employed women in 2020 decreased by 4%.

Behind the losses were the following trends:

(1) women’s employment is concentrated in sectors that are relatively stable in typical business cycles but were strongly affected by lockdowns (e.g., 70% of HoReCa and trade workers in Ukraine are females, or one woman in four);

(2) as schools and daycare centres were shut down, parents’ childcare needs multiplied, with women providing the majority of additional childcare, which left many of them unable to work;

(3) COVID-crisis has accelerated automation and transformation of business models — some professions transformed while some employees simply became redundant.

Given the latter, there is a risk that some occupations in Ukraine will be disappearing faster. Cashiers are being replaced by automatic kiosks, sorters in logistics centers — by AI robots. With the transition of banks to smartphones, physical branches are closing and the need for clerks, credit agents and cashiers is decreasing. With the transformation of industries, the demand for accountants, realtors, insurance agents will be decreasing, too, while IT professionals, product and sales managers, data scientists and business analysts, software engineers, engineers with IT skills, care workers and some groups of ‘blue collars’ will be in high demand.

We analyzed which professional clusters of women have become more vulnerable to two types of risks: the risk to lose a job due to new lockdowns and the risk to become redundant due to accelerated automation. According to our estimates, 58% of all employed women in Ukraine, or 4.4 million, have become more vulnerable to the consequences of the COVID-crisis. These include certain categories of office workers, technicians, laboratory and research staff, service and trade workers, and women in elementary occupations.

We scanned the most relevant vacancies in the labour market using big data and talked to HR professionals to develop up-skill and retraining recommendations for professional clusters of women we consider potentially vulnerable. We recommend office workers to move into project and product management and data analysis, and women with a strong technical background into programming, data science and  management. We recommend women in the services sector and trade and in elementary occupations to improve their digital competences. We recommend that 50+ women consider moving to the care sector and customer support.

What can the government do to help women who have lost or are at risk of losing their jobs?

  1. Increase enrolment in courses on resume writing, interviews and other career consulting services provided by state employment centers, improve their quality.

We recommend that state employment centers offer as many services as possible online, as well as invite private agencies to cooperate within public-private partnership.

  1. Create a system of vouchers for retraining at private educational institutions.

We suggest reimbursing the costs of retraining for adults that wish to master a ‘job of the future’ at private educational institutions (courses, schools).

  1. Prioritize the occupations for which the State Employment Service’s centers of vocational education offer retraining.

We suggest using alternative data on the real needs of the labour market from job search engines to determine the jobs for which it is necessary to massively retrain the population.

  1. Create a compensation system to companies for vocational retraining on their equipment.
    We suggest involving business on the basis of public-private partnership in vocational retraining of adults (apprenticeship).

Another product of our study is a dashboard that shows the most in-demand vacancies in the Ukrainian labour market, and professional (‘hard’) and social (‘soft’) skills that employers often look for in candidates for each role. The dashboard also demonstrates which jobs will be in demand in the future and which are already vulnerable to automation.