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Sociological Perspectives on Work,Employment,During the Covid-19 Crisis

  • 14 Pages
  • Published On: 30-11-2023
Part B

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the world of work and organisation. While some sectors – such as deliveries, supermarkets and some public sector jobs like the NHS and DWP – are actively hiring, the Covid-19 crisis is likely to result in a dramatic increase in worldwide unemployment. Alongside this crisis in employment has been a substantial re-evaluation, revaluation and adaptation of jobs. Historically poorly paid jobs like care, health, supermarket or gig economy jobs have been redefined as ‘key work’; while the classed, gendered and racialised nature of work has been brought to the fore with the inequalities over who can work from home, who manages childcare and who is made most at risk from Covid-19 in employment being subject of public debate.

Sociologically explore one element of the Covid-19 crisis related to work, employment and organisation (for example, the notion of ‘key work’, digital labour, inequalities in work/employment, domestic work/labour).

According to Watson (2017), sociology is a resource that individuals can use to understand how the social world acts, and they can use it to be more effective in the social spheres in their lives. The term ‘work’ can be used in different contexts. It is important to recognize that the main aspects of work can be categorized into two. First is the role that work plays in people when they are making a living. Second is the task related aspect of work. Therefore, work can be defined as the carrying of tasks that would allow individuals to make a living in the economic as well as the social context that they reside (Blyton, Hassard, Hill and Starkey, 2017). The tasks that are carried out when working are rewarded with economic returns.


As stated by Blyton, Noon and Morrell (2013) people work in order to get money for them to carry on with their daily activities. Basic needs are satisfied through paid work since one is able to get money to cater for their basic needs like food, shelter and clothing. However, defining work in terms of its importance in satisfying the basic need would be questionable because most countries have a system that does not allow people to fall below the basic subsistence level. Some politicians argue that provision of a welfare system can hinder people from working since they satisfy their basic needs.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the world of organization and work (Zaw, 2020). It is likely that the pandemic will cause a dramatic increase in the global unemployment rate. It has threatened the wellbeing and livelihoods of millions of people and has greatly interrupted the social, economic and a public health. However, some sectors like the supermarkets, deliveries as well as some public sector jobs like the DWP and NHS are still hiring. This means that some sectors are losing employment while others are gaining.

Additionally, the pandemic is a global economic crisis which is risking the incomes, jobs and health of millions of people globally (Zaw, 2020). However, there were strict containment measures that most of the countries adopted in order to flatten the curve which was rising with a very high rate ( 2020). There is a concern on the recovery of the economies which have been negatively affected by the economies. In order to handle this, the G20 leaders have committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic and to safeguard people’s incomes and jobs. Hence, the ILO has been called upon to monitor the effects of the pandemic on employment ( 2020).

From the definition of work above, people ought to get money from the work that they do. However, with the pandemic, the rate of employment is becoming less than the rate of unemployment. This has raised concern and public debates on what should be done about the same. To add, some people are getting into depression due to lack of basic needs which is due to the high unemployment rates experience at the time of the pandemic (Zaw, 2020). Also, the pandemic has led to an increased need to seek for medication. Lack of the money as well as underemployment and unemployment have caused many people to lack the money to seek for medication.

Following the COVID 19 containment measures, the economic activities were severely constricted because businesses could not operate and many people were unable to go to their workplaces ( 2020). Also, there was a reduction in the industrial production in most countries between February and April 2020. The largest declines were recorded in South Africa, Italy, Indonesia and India. However, some other industries were booming. There was increase demand in the protective equipment like the gloves, facemasks and sanitizers. Leading to an increased need of the supply of these products. Therefore, these sectors have been actively recruiting during the pandemic. The health sector has also been actively recruiting due to the increased demand for the health personnel.

The international labour organization states that the pandemic will continue impacting on the outcomes of the labour markets ( 2020). There are rising concerns about the health workers as well as their families across the world. On the other hand, the pandemic will impact on the specific groups that have more vulnerability to the extreme labour market outcomes. To add the quality of work including the access to social protection and the wages have also been affected. Also, the quantity of work which relates to underemployment and unemployment has been reduced ( 2020).

Additionally, the international labour organization is expecting that the global underemployment and unemployment rates will continue to increase because of the pandemic ( 2020). They estimate that the global unemployment rate will increase by between 5.3 million and 24.7 million from 2019. However, the figures are uncertain but all the indicators show that is a gradual increase in the global unemployment rate. Also, the constrains of movement of people as well as the reduction in the economic activity are some of the factors that are impacting on the service and manufacturing sectors, hence causing the increase in the unemployment rate. Some sectors cannot make profits to sustain themselves as well as their employees and they are resulting to closing down or laying off some of the employees to reduce on the losses that could be incurred. Also, both the regional and the global supply chains have greatly been affected by the pandemic. The service sectors like the retail, travel and tourism have greatly been affected by the pandemic especially due to the travel restrictions. The tourism council in collaboration with the world trade conducted a research that showed that there is a 25% reduction in the international travels due to the pandemic ( 2020). This has placed millions of jobs that depend on those sectors at risk.

Alongside the pandemic, there has been a substantial adaptation, revaluation and re-evaluation of jobs. Historically, jobs had been classified as the poorly paid like the supermarket, health and care jobs while others were seen as racialised, gendered and classed. However, there are concerns on which jobs can be carried out from me, who is most at risk of COVID and who is to manage childcare. As a result of the pandemic, it is expected that the rate of underemployment will also increase. It is expected that there will be a significant downward adjustment to the working hours and wages like it has been during the crisis that have happened before (Zaw, 2020).

There has been an increased demand in the digital labour due to the pandemic. As a result, some of the jobs and skills that could have since been lost have been preserved. It has also assisted people to connect to the labour market. Also, it has been a source of new formal employment since some of the people who have lost their jobs are running to the digital labour (Zaw, 2020). The ability of the public employment service to quickly adjust and adopt to technology has enabled it to maintain services and respond effectively during the containment period. To add, the public employment services had already adopted the use of technology therefore, they have been relying on it on delivery of goods to ensure that there is continuity of the essential services at the time when there was the partial and total lockdown ( 2020). To add, the reorganization of operations, flexibility and digital based delivery has boosted the capacity of the public employment services in coping with the disruptions due to the pandemic as well as the increase in demand for critical services.

Most labour market programmes and intermediation services were moved online by the public employment services by providing the employees with telephones ( 2020). During the COVID 19 pandemic, the technology based service delivery has proved to be core since it ensures that the offices continue to deliver the essential services. The ICT based infrastructure has been greatly relying on the telephone as well as the digital services especially in the countries where the rules of physical distancing as well as the movement of people was significantly restricted. For example, Spain is one of the countries that experienced the most stringent and one of the longest lockdowns. At this time, remote channels were used to provide the essential services like registration of job vacancies, personal data updates, processing of benefits as well as general information ( 2020). Additionally, the local offices in Spain depended on the online jobs’ portal and a virtual office desk which was adapted to provide services to COVID 19 circumstances. Also, the companies that had clear digital platforms for service delivery prior to the pandemic were better placed and responded better to the COVID 19 challenges.

The USA dominates the global online work demand with about 47% ( 2020). However, the COVID 19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for online work in some countries like Germany, India, Canada, Australia and in the UK. However, it has declined in the USA in activities like writing and translation, data entry, clerical as well as creative and multimedia. The increase in demand for online work in the UK and in India is due to the technology and software development activities ( 2020). The share of the total supply of online works in Ukraine and in the UK increased while it reduced in other countries. To cope with other rising demand in service provision during the pandemic, critical function and processes had to be prioritized. For instance, the health care as well as the supermarkets are some of the sectors that can be termed as critical. The health care sector at the time of the pandemic has been instrumental due to the increased demand for the same. Historically, these jobs have been the poorly paid jobs but as at now, they are the jobs that are actively recruiting. The care sector as well is another sector that has been termed as poorly paid. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in the demand for services, hence creating employment in those sectors.

On the other hand, racialised, gendered and classed nature of work has been facing inequalities. These are the jobs that were well paying and were thought to be better than the other jobs. However, some of those jobs cannot be done from home, therefore, the pandemic has brought several challenges to those sectors. Some people have lost their jobs especially during the period of partial and total lockdown, also due to the restriction of movements caused by the COVID 19 pandemic ( 2020). Businesses were unable to run and it resulted to their closing down or laying off some of their employees. To add, there has been a public demand on who is more at risk of COVID 19 is and who is not. Some of the works are competing on which is more superior to the other. Also, a debate on who manages children has been ongoing.

There has been a need to prioritize and identify the most essential processes at this time of the pandemic since it will assist in the reallocation of resources and temporary hires. For instance, the Australian government established an employment service resource centre that the jobseekers were able to access online, and it also helped the private sector to adapt to the changes that arose due to the pandemic ( 2020). The pandemic came unexpectedly, hence there was an urgent need to devise strategies and adapt to the new environment. One group that has been mostly affected by the COVID 19 pandemic is the unskilled workers. Research has shown that there are widespread losses due to the pandemic and people are resolving to take loans ( 2020). Getting a daily meal has also become a challenge globally, and most vulnerable groups like the children and people living with disabilities are going without some meals. Some concerns have been raised in some countries about child labour which is a challenge

In Europe and North America, the COVID 19 pandemic has forced people to change their lifestyles (Kemp, 2020). Most of the people living in densely populated areas use the public transport. However due to the need of physical distancing, they have been forced either to look for a better alternative and some of them work remotely from home. Remote working is becoming more desirable and a necessity in order to contain the virus. Also, the transport industry has played a key role in digital labour. Transportation of essential products like food has been through the transport sector. As stated by Kemp (2020), most employees have adopted the blended working where they split their time to working from a central office or from working remotely from home. The employees are more flexible while at the same time the employers are given time to monitor the work. Blended working reduces commuting, hence reducing congestion. However, blended working faces some challenges like paying for space used for a short time and maintenance of workspace (Kemp, 2020).

To add, during the initial weeks of the crisis, there was a need for governments to scale up and their capacities especially at the hospitals in order to respond to the increased demand for the services. This included upgrading or adoption technology based systems, coming up with better ways of purchasing and delivering products, reducing the eligibility rules on the access of support, streamlining and reprioritizing processes, reallocating existing staff members, and hiring new staff (Kemp, 2020). Therefore, the health and care jobs have been redefined as key jobs because as at now, they are among the most essential. Without the health and care sectors, the pandemic would have been worse that it is because its containment would have been difficult.

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Gig economy jobs have been historically termed as the poorly paying jobs. Not many people would have liked to do those jobs. With the pandemic, people have lost their well-paying jobs and they have resulted into taking the gig economy jobs since they are the ones that are readily available and are in great demand (Zaw, 2020). During this time of the pandemic, the gig economy jobs have been termed as the key jobs. These are the jobs that are actively recruiting and have not been greatly affected by the pandemic. The people whose works mostly deal with interacting with a lot of people are the most at risk of COVID 19 (Zaw, 2020). The COVID 19 virus can be transmitted from one person to another, hence the need for digital platform, where the interaction between individuals is minimized. To add, there is a need to maintain physical distance and to observe personal hygiene in a bid to contain the pandemic. The COVID 19 virus has infected millions globally and has led to the loss of very many lives across the world (Zaw, 2020). This has resulted to loss of skilled manpower hence impacting negatively on the economy. To add, people have lost their sources of income. It is vital for people to take care and be responsible enough so that the global battle against the virus can be won. Therefore, there is a need to embrace digital labour.

References 2020. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 January 2021]. 2020. ILO: As Job Losses Escalate, Nearly Half of Global Workforce at Risk of Losing Livelihoods. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 January 2021]. 2021. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 January 2021].

Kemp, J., 2020. The Coronavirus Pandemic and The Great Workplace Debate: Viewpoint. [online] Insurance Journal. Available at: [Accessed 8 January 2021].

Noon, M., Blyton, P., & Morrell, K. (2013). The realities of work: experiencing work and employment in contemporary society. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave and Macmillan

Watson, T., 2017. Sociology, Work and Industry. London: Routledge.

Zaw, T., 2020. Community Perceptions of The Social and Economic Impacts Of COVID-19 In Myanmar: Insights from A National COVID-19 Community Survey (NCCS). Intl Food Policy Res Inst, 2020.

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