Skip navigation
Illustration of people working around the world

How COVID Has Impacted Recruitment Around The World

By: Aquent

LAST UPDATED: April 7, 2023

In our 2021 UK Salary Guide, we explored how coronavirus has impacted recruitment on a global scale. We got in touch with all of our 38 offices around the world to find out what experiences we had shared, and what had gone differently. Of course, there were some expected similarities but there were also some curious differences. Here's what our teams are seeing right now worldwide, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

An East Coast Tech Surge

The pandemic showed the US no mercy, but there have been pockets of growth in all markets. Though furloughed employees are now beginning to return to work, firms are beginning to make decisions far more strategically – replacing permanent staff with freelance talent, to make it easier in the event that cuts need to be made. On a brighter side, however, the US East Coast has seen a boom in digital roles as businesses look to hone in on e-commerce opportunities. This has been good news for highly skilled digital workers who are now being scooped up to help cater to this demand.

The move to digital has meant that cities such as Boston are seeing a surge in demand for UX, CX and brand strategist roles. Companies want to improve their online capabilities and have identified it as a crucial part of generating business revenue. The presidential election also had an impact on jobs, fuelling demand at creative agencies. Unsurprisingly, New York City has been one of the hardest hit places and its talent market has been one the slowest to rebound. This is due to huge advertising cuts, as brands slam the breaks on spending. The result has been that ad agencies have been hit the hardest, and the Big Apple has seen something of a talent exodus.

A Mixed Up Mid-West

Across midwestern and southern states, the impact of coronavirus has varied a great deal. Cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit have really hit the ground running, embracing the benefits of remote working. Similarly to the East Coast, there’s been a digital renaissance with companies looking to improve their customer experience, meaning that same boost of UX, CX, brand strategy and digital marketing roles becoming available.

Along the Gulf Coast, places like Texas, Georgia, and Florida, the digital transition hasn’t been as easy or as popular. Texas has seen an increase in redundancies, with a preference for working on-site. The economic impact has seen countless tech start-ups fold and its bricks-and-mortar economy has also suffered recently leading to high levels of unemployment.

A Delayed Recovery, But Cheap Capital

Despite originally hoping for a speedy recovery, the West Coast has seen its hopes dashed and businesses are starting to face the reality of a two-year recovery. A bonus to this situation however is that capital is cheap, encouraging companies to expand in new ways (especially digitally) – paying particular attention to their user experience. To get this right, businesses are looking for leaders and experts in their field to guide them to safety and more requests for these types of roles are now being made.

Workers in Los Angeles are now reconsidering their normal “office hours” – something that has had a big impact on the hospitality, luxury goods, and gym industries. Even popular entertainment and publishing powerhouses are reassessing their business models to see what areas can be monetised. San Diego is witnessing small business mergers to keep them afloat, and a slowdown in Seattle has meant an influx of talent into the job pool. Portland, often seen as a hub for real talent, has seen the job market become more aggressive and competitive with more candidates looking for work.

Canada Weathers The Storm

In Canada, the economy has remained solid, with just 10–12% unemployment. The majority of businesses seemed to adapt quickly to remote work, and many plan to continue indefinitely, allowing only essential workers on site. While businesses have learned to adapt, organizations have quickly shifted their projects to focus on digital. Toronto has faced the same exodus as NYC and San Francisco. At this time, COVID has had a lighter impact in Vancouver, and the economy appears strong, although cases were on the rise towards the end of 2020. The low price of oil and high unemployment rates have impacted Calgary’s economy, causing some skilled talent to relocate to more stable markets.

Shared Experience Across Europe

It seems that the French market is very similar to the UK, in that it’s slowly picking up again for both perm and temp recruitment. However, as there are not huge recruiting demands, most companies are already self-resourceful by relying on their own talent acquisition teams. They’ve mainly considered a hiring recovery in Q1 2021 as the earliest feasible, though the pandemic situation is still quite uncertain. On the Talent side, again similarly to the UK, there is an ever-growing talent pool – some even willing to accept lower pay. Digital professionals, however, are one of only a few growing sectors.

The Netherlands has experienced a stable Freelance market with engagements for essential deliverables-based work being booked and extended for completion. The availability of talent both Freelance & Permanent, has significantly increased since March 2020 whilst permanent opportunities are far and few between. Companies are still hiring on a permanent basis, mostly mid-level rather than leadership or strategically, but the market remains optimistic that this will shift as 2021 budgets are finalised and investments in teams need to be made for growth targets to be met.

Australia Bounces Back

Countrywide, Australia is optimistic, seeing positive development – boosted by government investment and focus on employment. Businesses involved in Hospitality and Tourism are seeing a gradual return, though a variety of sectors including Finance are still slow to recover. With the end of 2020 and the oncoming summer, business is beginning to ramp up again, especially where restrictions have been relaxed. Availability of permanent positions is increasing slowly, with numbers towards the end of 2020 reaching those similar to pre-COVID figures. Australia has also seen very slight recent growth in freelance employment figures too.

A Talent Shortage in Japan

In Japan, counter intuitively, companies have let a lot of their temporary workforce go since the pandemic started and instead want to replace them with permanent employees. Aquent's area of staffing is buoyant with many web-related companies or consumer products companies realising the power of e-commerce since Covid-19 started and they want to hire specialist staff. Good talent is still in the negotiating seat on salaries, even as companies apply stricter criteria and apply more screening processes before hiring new personnel.

All four Aquent offices in Japan have more permanent positions to fill than they can handle. Our dilemma is a shortage of skilled, experienced talent, so it is possible that in a few months we will see some wage inflation creeping in as good talent requests higher pay to incentivise them to move jobs. However, due to the assumed “last in, first out” concerns of many Japanese, changing jobs doesn't happen unless there is a good reason and higher salary isn't typically top of the list!