Although there were few positive aspects to the pandemic in 2020, it did coincide with jobs growth in IT, farming and the liberal professions, according to the latest coronavirus dashboard produced by business consultants Acerta.
The number of jobs in IT in 2020 rose by 4.2%, according to Acerta’s survey of 27,000 companies. That came slightly ahead of agriculture and horticulture (+4.1%) and the liberal professions (doctors, lawyers, accountants) where numbers were up by 2.4%
Jobs in the sector ‘storage and transport’ (+2.2%) and construction (+1.5%) completed the top five.
“The coronavirus year was a difficult year for many companies,” said Liesbet Coninx, managing director of payroll services at Acerta.
“Yet there are also sectors that have made additional recruitments in 2020. The IT sector, for example. Many companies have expanded (or even launched) their digital channels, giving that sector a boost. The agricultural and horticultural sector also experienced a growth in the workforce, but this mainly concerns temporary employment contracts.”
The increase, she said, is probably due to measures the government took to limit the pandemic’s effects on food production, including allowing those on benefits to work a certain number of days in food production without loss of benefits – in many cases a crucial move to replace seasonal migrant workers blocked from coming to Belgium by travel restrictions.
Not surprisingly, the two sectors where jobs suffered the worst were food and drink service (-16.4%) and the cultural sector (-11.7%).
Both industries had to suffer long lockdowns, in most cases that are still going on, and while temporary unemployment offers some solace in some cases, the two industries also employ a lot of casual labour for whom the alternatives were limited.
“It is absolutely no surprise that the corona pandemic has had the biggest impact on the hospitality industry,” said Coninx. The regional differences are not great, she said, with one exception.
“What we do see is that the percentage decrease is greatest in West Flanders. That is not entirely illogical, because the catering industry on the Belgian coast is more dependent on seasonal flexible labour, which fell sharply due to the coronavirus.”