Coronavirus: working students to reinforce labour for Easter break

Coronavirus: working students to reinforce labour for Easter break
Credit: Belga

The health and agricultural sectors in Belgium are counting on working students to join their ranks during the Easter break, according to a survey by HR company Acerta.

While many sectors come to a halt due to the lockdown measures to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), these are busy times for both health care workers and those living off the land.

"Where work is peaking, working students are a potential target group for reinforcement," said Acerta. "1 out of 5 companies (18%) in these sectors uses student workers to fill in the gaps during the Easter holidays," they said.

In health care, "not all jobs are equally accessible to student workers," as many of them require specific qualifications. However, "students who are in the process of acquiring exactly those qualifications in their education are eligible," Acerta said. Nevertheless, "an institution cannot offer its nurse in training a student contract during the academic year. For the Easter holidays their own trainees are therefore not eligible as working students, but for the summer holidays they are."

The agricultural sector would normally welcome 15,000 to 25,000 seasonal workers around this time, according to Acerta, but as many of these workers come from the Middle-East and Eastern Europe and are stuck due to travel restrictions to curb the coronavirus, "1 in 4 companies in the green sector is putting working students to work this Easter break."

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Even in sectors that are expected to peak at the present time, 43% of companies are noticing less work or fewer orders. "The hospitality industry and many shops are closed, making it more difficult to reach the end consumer," explained Senior Acerta Consultant Ellen Van Grunderbeek.

23% of businesses surveyed believed that the summer, usually a high point for the hospitality industry, would bring less work than normal during that period. 31% is seeing fewer working students during this Easter break.

"All in all, businesses and institutions are still looking to the future with some hope: a majority of them believe that they can expect a workload that is more or less the same as in other years," Van Grunderbeek said. "They are slightly less positive about today and tomorrow than about the situation in a few months' time. Corona has already taught us that this virus can quickly change our perspectives."

Coronavirus has hit the Belgian economy hard, as over 1,2 million citizens are currently collecting temporary unemployment.

Jason Spinks

The Brussels Times

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