As the Covid-19 pandemic enters a new phase, it’s undeniable that the lockdown has changed our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Certain industries have been hit harder than others, with many unemployed workers struggling to make ends meet. So, as the global economy starts moving again and people return to work, what do we know about what’s changed in the UK job market during the pandemic?
The travel industry was one of the first to be hit by Covid-19, with airlines and hotel chains seeing a sharp decline in bookings. The national lockdown led to the introduction of travel restrictions, which meant that people couldn’t leave or enter the UK from other countries. This led to enormous losses for those working within the travel industry.
Update: As of June 2022, the travel industry is flourishing, with the rise of what is being termed “revenge travel”.
“Revenge travel is a media buzzword that originated in 2021 when the world began to reopen, and people decided to make up for lost time,” explains Erika Richter, vice president of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) in a CNN article.
Hospitality and Leisure
Mandatory closures and social distancing meant that the hospitality and leisure industry was hit particularly badly by the global pandemic. Businesses including hotels, pubs, and sports venues saw their doors closed for months and then worked on reopening at a reduced capacity.
Update: As of June 2022, most social distancing measures, covid vaccine passports and mask mandates are no longer in place at venues around the country and things are beginning to return to some sort of normality. There are still many vacancies that are struggling to be filled and this can be partly attributed to the “great resignation”, and partly to the effects of Brexit, which saw many Europeans leave the UK, and their jobs in the hospitality sector.
As all non-essential shops were closed from the start of lockdown, it’s little surprise to see the retail industry hit so hard. Major chains such as Debenhams, Laura Ashley, and Cath Kidston have all gone into administration since the start of lockdown.
Update: In June 2022 times are still quite hard for high street retail companies. They are struggling to recruit enough staff and patterns of work and commuting have seen many city-centre shopping locations much quieter than normal. With more people working remotely than ever before, it has meant a downturn for traditional retail stores based around servicing the needs of commuters.
The manufacturing industry in the UK has seen massive economic shocks during the pandemic. Areas such as new orders, employment, and overall output have all rapidly declined due to covid-19. Again, lockdown restrictions meant that places like factories and some warehouses weren’t able to open.
Update: As of June 2022, the manufacturing industry appears to be in a slow but steady recovery. “February saw a welcome uplift in manufacturing activity, as the end of lockdown restrictions and more improvements in supply chain performance fuelled output growth momentum towards a seven-month high,” Duncan Brock, group director at CIPS told the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in March 2022.
At the height of lockdown, it seemed like nearly the entire country had come to a standstill. And, with a decrease in transportation and trade across the globe, the demand for energy went down. As well as a decrease in demand for energy, jobs in the UK also declined significantly.
As economies begin to recover from the pandemic, countries across the northern hemisphere, which experienced a long, cold winter in 2021 with depleted gas storage levels, have been left scrambling to secure supplies.
Update: As of June 2022, energy prices have risen dramatically, after the energy regulator OFGEM approved the removal of price caps on increases. This, coupled with the UK inflation rate is hammering consumers and contributing to a cost of living crisis. France capped energy price rises at 5% but the UK declined to do so, which will likely see substantial profits for the energy companies, at least in the short term.
Whilst many industries were hit hard in terms of income and activity levels, the healthcare industry faced a completely different set of challenges. With patients in British hospitals reaching record highs, the NHS and other healthcare services proved just how vital they are. The surge in patients combined with the long-documented staff shortages meant hospitals were pushed to their breaking point. An already stretched workforce was forced to stretch further as staff were left unable to work due to isolation and shielding practices.
Update: As of June 2022, the NHS in many areas is still struggling to cope with staff shortages. Although the current strain of covid is a lot milder, NHS staff are dealing with very vulnerable people so they need to take extra care. This means the NHS is still short-staffed and in many places non-urgent operations are still not back to normal capacity.
The NHS was hit particularly hard by Brexit, as the departure of EU citizens left vacancies in nursing that there weren’t enough trained nurses to fill. 22,000 EU citizens left the NHS between the Brexit referendum and the end of 2019 and that number will most likely be even higher now.
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