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People, Work, Education: Making sense of the impact of the global pandemic


This month the ETF is focusing on the importance of data in developing programmes and steering policy-making in the European Union and neighbouring countries to respond to the challenges underway as well as better anticipate challenges ahead.

People, Work, Education: Making sense of the impact of the global pandemic’ was the focus of the ETF Live webinar on Tuesday. The ETF and Eurofound shared their knowledge on gathering up-to-date information and how policy makers can use data to fine-tune policies to better meet the real-time needs of citizens.

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite European Union Agency that provides knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurofound carried out four 

Living, working and COVID-19 online surveys to analyse the rapid change that is ongoing and the impacts of the pandemic. 

“The first wave of the e-survey went beyond our expectations, with 65,000 respondents. After that we decided to repeat the survey regularly to have a data set. The main value of the e-survey is that you are able to collect data in a quick and timely manner, and give immediate information to policymakers,” said Massimiliano Mascherini, Head of the Social Policies unit at Eurofound.

In the Spring, Eurofound teamed up with ETF to oversee the inclusion of 10 EU neighboring countries in the e-survey - Albania, Jordan, Georgia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, North Macedonia, Palestine, and Tunisia.

Unexpectedly high participation

The results of the fifth round, carried out between 29 March to 2 May, were released in July. The topics covered ranged from quality of life, housing and the financial situation, to working conditions and work-life balance.

“The e-survey allowed us to collect data and knowledge situated in partner countries that was not well covered in official statistics or surveys in general – from working life to teleworking, the perception around the access to, and quality of, education, and how families are coping with the stress of the pandemic,” said Manuela Prina, Head of Skills Identification and Development Unit at the ETF.

“Some data we have now is really new. For the ETF, this is very precious. We had a target of 7,000 responses in the 10 countries, but ended up with 18,000. As responding to the e-survey is not a short exercise, that many full surveys is remarkable, so thank you to all people that took the time.”

The results 

The findings of the e-survey revealed a bleak picture, with the pandemic having taken a heavy toll on people. Respondents reported lower trust in institutions than at the start of the pandemic, that mental well-being is a growing issue, the level of unmet healthcare needs is on the rise, and that there is an increase in the number of households experiencing energy poverty.

“The impact of the pandemic on the labour market is pretty severe, more so in neighbouring countries than the EU. If one in ten European feel insecure about the future of their job, it is 30% in neighbouring countries. It is a situation of uncertainty. And we’re now facing new challenges: the rising cost of living as well as the surge of energy prices. The combination of these two factors creates additional uncertainty and puts more people at risk. Let’s imagine that if almost 15% of Europeans had issues with utility bills, now it’s almost 30%,” said Mascherini.

The findings showed that mental health issues are on the rise. “It is linked to some of the risks that came with the pandemic, which include exposure to the digital world, which many were not really able to deal with as educators and policy-makers,” said Prina. “More than half of respondents in neighbouring countries had fears that they didn’t know how to deal with, and this created problems and led to mental health-related issues. We need to cover this through education and training, and be open about it.”

The data showed that learning opportunities are more skewered towards the more educated, which is an issue than needs to be addressed for countries to better deal with the aftermath of the pandemic and other challenges.

“It is people with low-level skills that are more damaged in moments of crisis. This is also due to the informality of the labour market in neighbouring countries. Some 23% of people in the survey lost their job in the pandemic,and they have no protection or security. There’s a need to create a space for security and social protection, especially for the fluctuations in economic stability,” said Prina.

Data to shape training and skills development

The survey’s results will feed into the shaping of training and lifelong learning policies. 

“We need to focus more on upskilling and reskilling in the labour market and access to learning opportunities. We also need to work on digital outreach and how people are not only using digital technologies for learning but also work,” said Prina.

The outcomes of the survey will enable ETF to put forward targets and policy advice as well as implement projects. “We will transform the data into options to be put forward to policy-makers with added value,” she said.

Eurofound has already taken the survey’s findings to EU institutions, such as a meeting with the EU’s Employment and Social Affairs Ministers (EPSCO), with a presentation given on the impact of raising energy prices on the social situation of EU countries.

Looking ahead

Going forward, Eurofound and the ETF are working on a joint analysis of the data collected in April, slated to be published in December. 

Prina said that the upcoming report “will trigger a number of actions, including reaching out to the surveyed countries to do a deep dive into the issues that emerged.”

The survey is to be repeated next Spring. “We will increase the number of partner countries in the survey as it it important to ETF’s work, particularly skills development and labour market dynamics,” said Prina.

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