Official labor statistics take significant time to produce. In contrast, online job portals are already providing a window into labor demand in the post-pandemic job market.
Across Asia and the Pacific, youth unemployment soared during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in tourism and hospitality, where many young people are employed. In South Asia, many youths were laid off or could not get decent jobs after graduation.
For instance, the youth unemployment rate (15–24 years) in Bhutan nearly doubled from 11.9% in 2019 to 20.9% in 2021. Youth unemployment in the total labor force aged 15-24 years in South Asia increased from 19.5% in 2019 to 24.1% in 2021. Bangladesh weathered the economic impact of the pandemic relatively well, but even there adverse impact on jobs is unavoidable.
Responding to such decline calls for quicker reaction and greater flexibility in jobs markets, and thus speedier access to data that can indicate what is going on to better direct policy. Online jobs portals could be one source of useful guidance.
In the wake of the COVID-19 disruptions, many countries ramped up labor supply side efforts through training programs for skilling, reskilling, and upskilling. Tourism workers, for example, were trained to tap their hospitality skills to allow them to find jobs in care work. Or in construction, training has helped make up for the loss of skilled foreign workers who returned to home countries as the pandemic broke. Industries such as information technology, meanwhile, are recovering faster than others and many countries have come up with digital training opportunities.
The key is to supply a skilled workforce that is responding to rapidly changing labor demand. Even before the pandemic, observers had pointed out the need for this flexibility. But it is easier said than done. Why? For one, official statistics take significant time, cost, and effort to produce quality and reliable data. And understanding labor demand—such as through the occupations, job titles, and skills in demand—is difficult through labor force surveys or less frequent employer surveys.
Online job portals, by contrast, can quickly provide perspective on the kaleidoscope of labor demand active in the post-pandemic labor markets.
Based on our research, online job postings declined significantly in March 2020 when the pandemic was declared. The number of online job postings have shown that the trend is for recovery and the latest figures in 2022 exceed the 2019 levels. The market has experienced ups and downs for the last 2 years triggered by successive COVID-19 waves. However, the extent of the declines has been modest compared to the plunge in March 2020.
And online job postings related to the information technology (IT) industry have rebounded relatively faster. To understand the specific occupations and computer skills employers have demanded, we studied online job posting data in Bangladesh.
These online job portal data can be useful. They may allow development of unique specialization, courses, and curriculums for education and training institutions. And they can help job seekers learn about labor demand.
During the pandemic, for example, we organized the first ever online job fairs in Bangladesh in partnership with Bdjobs.com. Although the fairs resulted in only few hires, we found that they nonetheless corrected job seekers’ overoptimistic beliefs about labor market conditions, such as salary levels.
Less optimistic but more realistic about the labor market, participants in the job fair seemingly became more likely to hold jobs, avoiding job-hopping.
In short, when labor demand “roller coasters” due to a pandemic or amid rapid changes in technology, policy makers and education institutions can tap big, high frequency data to draw timely insights. Such online job portals and information are not always available nor accessible in every country but, if they exist, they can reveal the direction of labor demand.
With this information, policy makers can better intermediate labor demand and supply in a rapidly changing world.