The engines of consumerism are roaring back to life as cities that had ground to a halt, silenced by the pandemic, are opening up after more than 18 months.
As mass vaccination takes place, the human and economic cost of the pandemic is coming down, both for families and countries.
But even as there is a semblance of a return to normalcy, lives, jobs and opportunities to earn a living are yet to recover.
The pandemic has negatively impacted the labour market; as economies contracted, the aftershocks shuffled the job market, creating opportunities for some people and misfortune for others.
A head-hunter in Kigali said that as some of the companies struggled to meet their financial obligations, they laid off workers. His recruitment firm took on some of the top employees for companies that could still afford them and needed their skills and experience.
For recruitment firms, it is an employer’s market as there is plenty of talent that is chasing few job openings. For the unemployed, it is agony.
Musonera Olivier got a job as an accountant in a hotel in 2019, four years after graduating from college. But even before his first year there was done, the pandemic hit.
The hotel remained open for the first two months of the first lockdown, and he was paid his full salary. But in the third month, he received half his salary and was laid off in the fourth month.
Now, almost 15 months later, he is job hunting again. With little experience, his chances of getting another job are slim in a market full of unemployed, experienced accountants.
“I was renting my own place and was settling in when everything shut down and I had to go back to my parent’s house. You cannot imagine how depressing that is,” Olivier said.
Getting another job should have become easier due to the avalanche of highly qualified applicants, but there were two challenges — absorption had slowed down, and it was hard to match the right employees with employers because recruitment had become complicated. Kanobana Simon Peter, who works for the Rwandan National Public Service Commission, said both government and private sector recruitment was critically affected by the pandemic.
Challenges in recruitment
“Government recruitment involves people coming together in one place. It couldn’t be done during the pandemic because of the Covid-19 protocols. It was the same with private recruitment.”
He said this left many people unemployed for long, even though the jobs were available, while limiting chances of getting work for those that had been laid off during the pandemic.
Some government institutions could not recruit the workers they needed, which affected service delivery. For example, a unit that needed 18 employees had only four.
The pandemic has led to fresh thinking when it comes to hiring and recruiting. The recruitment and interviewing field has leapfrogged ahead to meet the demands of new procedures, with technology adjusting accordingly.
For example, the government of Rwanda is using smart HR — a digital recruitment system — to employ teachers.
Recruiters too are looking beyond the CV, placing emphasis on soft skills and character instead. Physical locations are no longer important as video interviews take over, especially for the first rounds of interviews. With these changes, jobs are being reclaimed and economies moving again, to support producers and buyers alike.