Pandemic driving job decline: World Bank

The need for trained professionals in seven Pacific states including Samoa has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was a sharp drop in the new hiring of salespeople, clerical support, technicians and associate professionals, according to a World Bank report.

The data on understanding jobs at risk from job vacancy analysis in Samoa is based on online job advertisements, primarily from the Samoa Public Service Commission (P.S.C.), states the World Bank report dated December 2020.

The report is titled the “Pacific Island Countries in the Era of COVID-19: Macroeconomic impacts and job prospects.”

As a result of gathering data from the P.S.C., the report states that changes in public job demand are illustrated but there is limited data on private sector jobs.

However, the report notes that the public sector accounts for a quarter of employment.

Data collected from the Samoa Observer and Employ Mai Facebook page comprise five percent of the sample studied for the report.

“Against a backdrop of economic contraction and the impact of COVID-19 on employment, job opportunities for Pacific workers may be at risk,” the report further states. “Using job vacancy data, this section aims to identify occupations that are at high and low risk in four countries – PNG, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.”

“The findings in this section, generated through analysis of job advertisements from February and May 2020, serve to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on new hiring. 

“Given the increasing need for virtual work environments in the context of COVID-19, the methodology used takes particular consideration of demand for IT-related jobs.”

Additionally, the report states that the approach aims to better understand issues of structural unemployment, through the evaluation of job vacancy data along skills levels and educational requirements, in order to identify potential skills gaps or mismatches between supply and demand of labor.

Job vacancies in February and May last year indicate changes in labour demand as a result of COVID-19, the report states. 

“While the majority of occupations across the four countries saw an overall decline in the number of jobs advertised, changes varied across occupational groups and skill sets.”

Samoa saw a sharp drop in new hiring of service and sales workers, along with clerical support, technicians, and associate professionals.

But the number of job vacancies for professionals increased as a result of COVID-19, according to the report.

The share of semi-skilled job postings dropped substantially as a result of COVID-19. 

And job vacancy analysis in Samoa reveals a disproportionate decline in demand for semi-skilled workers – from 80 to 36 positions.

The Samoa Government has also had to respond to the dual shock of COVID-19 and an earlier measles outbreak, the report notes, and lower demand for clerical support and service workers in the public sector may be indicative of the Government’s fiscal constraints.

“Furthermore, hiring for permanent public sector jobs has mostly occurred in the country’s capital. The Government’s stimulus package is expected to assist those reliant on income from agriculture and the informal sector,” states the report.

The seven Pacific Island countries examined in the 75-page report – Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu – are expected to see significant declines in Gross Domestic Product growth in 2021.

The report aims to assess the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Pacific island countries, with an emphasis on labor market effects, part of the World Bank’s ongoing analytical work program on Pacific labor mobility.

It complements two pieces of work: one that investigates the impact of COVID-19 on employment of Pacific migrants and the welfare of families of migrant workers; and a wider study that assesses ways in which overseas opportunities for Pacific workers could be broadened and deepened.

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