The coronavirus crisis has particularly impacted young workers, as a recent survey shows that access to the labour market has become increasingly difficult for those under 25.
Fewer young people - 26.4% fewer under -25s - started an open-ended employment contract than in the same period in 2019, according to a survey by human resources services company Acerta on Thursday, based on the first half of the year and data from more than 30,000 employers.
"It is a difficult period for young people. The youngest age group has perhaps felt the impact of the coronavirus crisis the most," said Annelies Baelus, Director of Talent Services at Acerta.
"That is why we are hopeful that the inflow of people over 25 is again higher than in 2020. Our other surveys also show that companies are again recruiting more and that the labour shortage is even being felt again," she added.
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Compared to 2020, access to the labour market for all other age groups has increased but for under -25s, it decreased by 4.7% since last year.
The survey found that the pharmaceutical sector offers young people the highest starting wage, with an average of €2,620.85 - an increase of 5.7% compared to 2019 - whilst the salary for employees in the food and logistics sectors at the time of hiring has increased sharply, by 13.6 and 11.1% respectively.
However, the biggest increase in salary was in the hotel and catering sector, where wages increased by 22.2%
"The hotel and catering industry is struggling with a structural staff shortage. In order to gain staff, they are trying to make the wages more attractive for young starters," Baelus said in a press release.
Meanwhile, those in employment are finding that after one and a half years of the coronavirus crisis and working from home, employees are really starting to feel the disadvantages of working from home, as complaints about stress are increasing.
In the past three months, the external prevention and health service Mensura has reported a quarter more reports of employees suffering from stress than during last year's summer, according to reports from De Standaard.
Many are finding the once-praised advantages of not having to waste time commuting, flexible working hours and more focused working have now been trumped by the disadvantages.
"One of these is what we call 'team-out': employees who feel isolated due to a lack of contact with their colleagues and for whom video calls are an insufficient alternative to thorough teamwork in the office," said Koen Van Hulst, head of psychosocial services at Mensura.
The balance between work life and private life has also become less distinct as time goes on, with many employees often finding it unclear when the working day starts and ends.
However, it is important to note that in spite of some disadvantages to homeworking, many still value the flexibility of working in the domestic environment and it is likely that many companies will transition towards homeworking in the longer term, or at least adopt a home/office hybrid format.
Last Friday, the Consultative Committee announced that the strong recommendation for companies to encourage employees to work from home will be lifted from 1 September in Flanders and Wallonia.
Once a safe return can be organised, Mensura advises employers to do so in a way that a new group dynamic is created in the office.
"There should be 'fixed-contact moments' when all team members meet each other in person," said prevention advisor Bart Vriesacker, adding that this will help make the work environment a meeting place.