Layoffs, pay cuts & unemployment: The untold story of many during COVID-19 pandemic

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 Everything seemed so surreal and unimaginable. It felt like the virus was only in Asia and would be stopped before it reached us here in Africa and Ghana. From Asia, we heard it was in Europe, then America.

Before we could even blink, the first few cases emerged in some parts of Africa. In no time, people were dying everywhere and the world was cast into a state of panic and confusion. Life has never been the same since then, with many devastating effects in all aspects of life. Everyone in every corner of this world has been affected in one way or another by this pandemic. However, some people have felt it more than others – with many being laid-off, others having to take pay cuts, and a few more out of business. Africa’s leading online retail company Jumia looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the employment situation in Ghana.

  1. Lay-off – This is a term that has not been frequently heard or used in our immediate environment. In years gone by, we used to hear this in foreign movies and read about it on the news. Ghanaian companies have never been in a position where they had to lay-off employees in huge numbers. Even the foreign-owned companies have always found alternatives to survive in times of crisis. Unfortunately, COVID-19 brought this detested practice to many companies as they had to close down certain departments and lay-off some staff to compensate for losses accrued during this pandemic.

Staff who were laid-off had to go home with a cheque that might have lasted a few weeks or months. What happens after that? Worst of all is the uncertainty surrounding their future. Will they be called back when everything calms down? Should they look elsewhere? What does the future really look like for them? These and many other questions are still unanswered. The big question remains “What do we do?”

 

  1. Pay Cuts – The second most-affected group of workers are those who had to take pay cuts. This may seem to be a better situation than those laid-off, right? However, it doesn’t seem so. Imagine the plans, projections and commitments made. Think about the loans taken and calculated pay-back amounts and times based on your earnings before COVID-19. How will you manage all of this? How will you survive, having to take 50% or less of your salary every month to do the things you struggled to do with the full salary? It’s sad, it’s unfortunate. In many cases, the pay cuts were necessary to keep companies running. But for the employee who suffered a pay cut, the big question remains “What do we do?”

 

  1. Unemployment – Then there is the final but bigger category of unemployed Ghanaians. This number keeps increasing day by day, month on month, year on year. Either tertiary students graduate in thousands with no assurance of a good job or semi-literates get to working ages and have nothing to do. The most painful aspect is that people who are laid-off and a few who cannot stand the effects of a pay cut automatically join this category. This makes the huge number even greater. Although government and other private sector companies have put in measures to ameliorate the plight of unemployed people in Ghana, the gap seems a bit too big to be closed within a few years. Here again, the big question pops up. “What do we do’?”

Well, well, well! Enough of the doom talk and negative situations. To every challenge or problem there must be a solution. Although there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to handling this problem, it is something that we all can consider.

Have you thought about the fact that during the COVID-19 lockdown, people still needed to eat? That they still needed to replace spoilt electronic gadgets, phones and other household items?

People still needed to get items delivered to their friends, families or customers. Yes! There lies an opportunity here. The opportunity is online! Here, there are no lay-offs, no pay cuts, and you work for yourself. It’s often termed self-employment the affordable way. With very little capital, you can start an ecommerce business. There is always something to be sold and something to be bought. But with little or no physical interaction, your best bet is to sell online. Here, you reach millions of buyers in a short time; and you avoid the added costs of shop rent, numerous staff and bills.

All you need is a smartphone or computer, Internet connection and you are there. If you already have a business, this is an opportunity to grow and maximise profit. Online portals that have built credibility and a big customer base over the years are available for you to list on. Be it a restaurant, clothing line, electronic shop or any other product, you can list online and sell to make good income. We can’t sit and wait for anyone to help us. Just take the step, research, ask people already in the business, and be innovative. There is still hope for us all. This too shall pass!

 

 

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