While life appears to be returning to something approaching reality, the view ahead is not quite so cheery.
We are already seeing renewed lock-outs of entire countries (hello, Spain – or should that be adios?), local lockdowns of towns in the UK and worrying reports that a second wave of COVID is already incoming. Many people are feeling that we should enjoy the relative freedom we are experiencing now, before another, similar lockdown happens again in a few months’ time. And while the economy can’t afford to fully lock down again like we did earlier this year, the short to mid-term job market is looking shaky as hell, despite Rishi Sunak’s best efforts to try and bolster the economy as best he can.
And all this points to one thing. Rising unemployment in the coming months. We’ve seen the retail and hospitality industries already taking a battering with the after-effects of COVID, but it’s not the only areas where we can expect the employment market to experience a contraction.
In fact, in a recent survey, almost 30% of companies said that they expected to decrease their workforce in the coming months. 59% of firms will keep numbers as they were and only 12% said that they expected to grow their businesses.
What does that mean for contractors?
Well, like most things, it depends on how you interpret the data. A lack of regular, ‘employed’ jobs could see more people turning to freelancing and working via an umbrella company, making competition for jobs even more aggressive than previously. Fewer jobs, more applicants and more people trying to find alternative ways to survive is not the optimal result. Because what that generally means is that there are people less experienced than you who are willing to do the work that you do for a fraction of the price.
Of course, if you’re in a specialist area, that may not be a problem and likewise, if you are only just pulling a little more than minimum wage, then there is a natural lower barrier there too, but its these in the middle ground who are most at risk of the increased competition.
On the flipside, what that could mean is that more companies will be looking to not take on any new, fully employed hires, but that they will be looking for alternative ways to get work done, such as outsourcing to freelance workers. Happy days! More work coming our way!
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, the reality is most likely that this will play out somewhere in the middle. If anyone is expecting the country not to be seeing an increase in unemployment, especially as we head into winter, then they are naïve. But the fact that lockdown has shown that working remotely is possible, could mean that employers are more open to taking on freelance and remote workers who come without the baggage of paying a salary irrespective of how much work there is and who they can scale up and down as they need to.
It’s such an uncertain time right now, that we don’t know what is to come. When it comes to work, all we can suggest is to keep doing what you do, the very best you can do it and try not to worry about what everyone else is doing. After how this year started, how can any of us possibly know how it could end?