It is an undeniable fact that the current COVID-19 pandemic has produced retrogressive effects on all spheres of economic endeavors. Like the celebrated American Judge Benjamin Cardozo stated “danger invites rescue”. The cry of distress is the summons to relief and a burden has been placed on all policymakers to make decisions which will absorb the difficulties created by the pandemic.
The energy sector has endured spillover effects from the health crisis. In the region of employment, it was reported in May, 2020 by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership that nearly 600,000 clean energy workers in the United States lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
It is therefore reasonable to conclude that millions of people in the energy sector have lost their jobs globally.
The commodity and labor market of the energy sector
There exists a positive correlation between the commodity and labor markets of the energy sector. The commodity market contains all energy products like crude oil, natural gas, refined petroleum products and so on. The commodity market determines the quantity and the prices of goods based on the forces of demand and supply.
The labor market comprises of both skilled and unskilled persons who contribute to either administrative, technical or support services. The labor market also regulates the employment rate and wages based on the forces of demand and supply.
The economics of labor force in the energy sector in times of crises
Financing the energy sector
The energy sector is the driving force for the modern technological era. The sector employs the services of sophisticated machines, technology, skilled and unskilled labor. The sustenance of the sector is primarily dependent on huge financial investment. These monies are obtained from market purchases, loan packages, philanthropical support and so on. The most important source of funding however is remittance from consumers.
The commodity market
The demand for energy products is very important to energy producing countries. Demand is conditional on the financial health of industries and the household.
The COVID-19 pandemic dwindled the energy demands and purchasing power of consumers. The lockdown rules put all industrial usage of energy products on hold. Earnings of households also reduced due to the inactivity of workers. Demand for energy products dropped. In April, it was reported by reputable agencies like Forbes that the prices of crude oil dipped to a negative rate.
Energy producers had to decide whether to maintain pre-COVID-19 quantities with lower prices or reduce quantities to meet the shrinking demand. Prudent energy sector management opted for a two-tier approach. Production quantities were reduced to evade the additional burden of finding storage for excesses. Secondly, existing prices were reduced to boost demand and market competitiveness. This automatically led to a fall in production quantities and prices of energy products.
The labor market
Changes in the commodity market correlates positively to changes in salaries and employments in the labor market. Commodities depend on labor for their production. All things being equal, demand for energy products determines the demand for labor.
The fall in energy commodity prices and quantities reduced the earnings of energy producers. To cut down production expenses, it was necessary for companies to lay-off workers. Some workers were also offered a pay cut in order to retain their jobs. The number of employees and wages dipped in the labor market.
Post COVID-19 lockdown policies
Policymakers will be burdened with restoring economies on life support. Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs will be instructive. Decisions must be taken to fit the pressing needs of the society.
The theory hierarchically classifies needs in three forms which include self-fulfillment needs, psychological needs and basic needs. Self-fulfillment needs focus on actions taken to attain self-actualization. Psychological needs concentrate on self-esteem, love and belongingness. Basic needs are skewed towards safety needs and physiological needs.
In the African economic climate, it is very easy to identify the major needs of the people within the Maslow classification. Standard of living is at the lowest in most African countries. Post Covid-19 policies should address the fulfillment of basic needs within the region. Decisions should focus on securing the survival of life and property. Governments and private entities must therefore invest in good drinking water, food, shelter, clothing, employment, health facilities and so on for the African people.
The position of African Women in post COVID-19 employment policies
The demand for labor after crisis will peak in response to the rising demand for energy products. To supply the growing market demand, there will be the need to employ more people into the production process. In my opinion, economic recovery policies in the energy sector should promote the employment of more African women. Energy corporations and private entities should adopt the practice of gender balance in reaching employment decisions.
Why the African woman: basis for policy recommendation?
The Africa woman has innately developed the requisite skills and competence necessary to provide for the welfare of all persons in the society. Broken homes and irresponsible parenting are rife in Africa. Bar some countable exceptions, the burden falls on the African Woman to care for dependents. Women are trained to be more effective managers of the family. If our main policy focus is to maintain the survival of families by providing basic needs then the best policy option will be to employ more African Women. That decision will inure to the benefit of the whole society.
Secondly, the pandemic presents a good opportunity to rectify the tainted history of gender inequality in the energy sector. Women have been unjustly under-represented in the sector. It was reported by Catalyst.org that women account for 22% of employees globally in the oil and gas sector.
According to the data, only 1% of CEOs in the sector are women whereas women occupy just about 17% representation in senior to executive roles. This is woeful and disgraceful. The COVID-19 situation has partially reset the energy labor market. Companies should use the opportunity to address the apparent gender disparity.
Gone are the days when society appropriated the kitchen for women. Many women have excelled in various positions in the energy sector. The accounts of Gifty Tetteh and Kadijah Amoah are commanding examples.
Gifty Tetteh has excelled in the management, conduct and discharge of many energy related roles. She is the proud founder of the Africa Women in Energy. Her organization focuses on training and mentoring young female talents into the energy sector. Kadijah Amoah was also appointed the Country Director of Aker Energy in January, 2020. She has chalked notable successes in her role.
There must be a level competing ground for both males and females in the energy sector. That is only possible if corporations and private entities look beyond appearances and focus on the qualifications and competences of job searchers. The African woman is capable of running all components of the energy sector efficiently. The choice is ours to explore.
>>>The writer is a Lawyer and Economic Analyst and also the Administrative Coordinator of the Africa Women In Energy