Among the phenomena caused by the pandemic we find that of the so-called 'discouraged persons'
Among the phenomena caused by the pandemic, phenomena that combine economic issues and psychological trauma, we find that of the so-called 'discouraged persons'. They do not have a job, and don't even look for one, and are not officially registered with job offices. In official statistics, this category of people is not listed separately from other unemployed people. Here is economic analyst Catalin Ghinararu:
“A jobless person is not discouraged. They don't have a job, but they are looking for one, while the discouraged person doesn't even look for a job, believing that, at least for the time being, they have no opportunity for a job, or that the opportunities they wished for don't exist any more. So that is the discouraged person. The pandemic brought with it various phenomena. At first, things were less clear, because it was believed that it was a shock of limited duration. Yet here we are, in late 2021, and things are not looking up. Certain jobs in the economy have vanished never to return, there are a lot of economic agents who shuttered their businesses never to reopen them, especially in sectors that employed large numbers of people, even if they were not highly qualified. We are talking about the retail sector, the hospitality sector, and even transportation. Obviously, some jobs that disappeared never came back, so that there are people who have stopped looking for jobs because they know those jobs went away.
According to the NIS, the number of discouraged persons this year has tripled. From around 30,000 discouraged persons in the first quarter of 2020, the number went up to over 144,000 now. What is worse is that the average age of these people is between 35 and 49, therefore a segment of the population that should be at the peak of their performance and activity. However, statistics that register concrete data can be interpreted in various ways, depending on individual situations and motivation. HR specialist Petru Pacuraru told us about it:
“There are all kinds of reasons. On the one hand we have the expectations of employers, who generally prefer typical employers, so they would rather hire young people with certain competencies, than older people that have to learn the skills in time. The fact that employers are looking for a certain type is what discourages people, creating this layer of the discouraged. At the same time, I think that there are enough liberal trades that don't necessarily need people who are employed or regimented in a company. If you want, it is a gray area between being employed and not being employed, such as the various forms of freelancing. However, I also met employees or former employees who no longer wish to work, and display this attitude of discouragement or lack of morale. They are people who feel isolated, and this layer is growing.”
In addition, there are people who, having worked for a long time in a rigid organization, no longer want to return to a job that puts too much pressure on them. They are I a holding pattern, since many don't really want to acquire a new set of skills. In fact, the uncertain economic and social situation created by the pandemic does not encourage professional reorientation, according to Catalin Ghinararu.
“If they are discouraged, then they are not looking for anything, because they know that they can no longer work, they don't find fitting jobs, does not manage to reorient professionally. This issue of reorientation does have its limits. For instance, people have a certain perception on the market, and sometimes it is much superior to that of economic analysts. They understand that there is uncertainty in the economy, and they think that if they reorient in their skills, they don't know for what, which makes it hard to tell what to do, what direction to take. Thinks are rather uncertain. The programs for qualification or re-qualification should look to the future, not the past. But the future is uncertain, and it is very hard to decide.”
We asked what the authorities could do to support these people. HR experts invoke the experience of other countries affected by this phenomenon, and here is Petru Pacuraru:
“Many countries have set up various support centers fro these people, issued phone numbers for support lines, there are many social services that can be copied and used in Romania. Just imagine a local support center for these people where they can get together with like minded people, regaining their confidence that allows them to take small steps in the direction they want. So far, though, this does not exist. These people are on their own.”
However, aside from this help, that would be rather emotional and social, a purely economic strategy is right now difficult to put together, according the analyst Catalin Ghinararu:
“So far, it is rather difficult to glean what to do. We have to be clear that certain activities will disappear outright. No one should have the illusion that we'll be back exactly to what used to be. The world has changed, and will continue changing. The pandemic shock brought with it systemic changes. If we want to qualify or re-qualify our workforce, we have to take into consideration that everything will change, and that many activities that were potential generators of growth and jobs were gravely affected by all these restrictions, quarantines, and lockdowns. What will the world look after we emerge from the pandemic? Here we have a major difficulty, and we can only assume that this problem of discouraged persons will continue for a while. So we can look ahead to pretty big problems.”