Manpower needs change dramatically as coronavirus bites

Cantillon: Hiring and tourism predictions overturned by speedy shifts in economy

They say a week is a long time in politics. The same can hold true for business as recruitment kingpin Manpower discovered this week. Manpower publishes its Irish employment outlook on Tuesday, indicating that "businesses in Ireland expect hiring to skyrocket in the upcoming quarter".

Among the highlights is the hotels and restaurants sector which is “anticipating a huge hiring drive in the next three months, with another year of colossal tourist footfall expected for 2020”. That will be news to a hospitality sector that is gripped by fear over the potential medium- and long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Global escalation

You have to feel for Manpower. The quarterly survey – a global operation – represents a significant financial commitment and is one of its key publications. However, with timing that can only be described as unfortunate, it was conducted between January 6th and 28th, concluding just days before the first reported European cases highlighted the rapid global escalation of Covid-19.

It is not alone. Reporting results on February 25th, Ireland's largest hotels group Dalata said it expected "no material reduction in demand" due to the outbreak of the virus in China.


On Monday, its shares slumped 10 per cent as it said it had since "observed a significant reduction in bookings and a significant increase in cancellations following the spread of Covid-19 to Europe, in particular the spread of the virus to northern Italy and from there to the UK and Ireland".

Looking to survival

The cancellation of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin on Monday only adds to the trepidation within the hospitality sector, where many companies must now be looking to survival rather than looking forward to any hirings or colossal footfalls.

Asked about the impact of Covid-19, Manpower's Irish managing director, Chris Gray, said current feedback from employers with global supply chains is that they are considering altering hiring plans "to take into account access to materials, slowing business demand and staff availability".

“The Irish economy has faced a great deal of uncertainty in the past and has remained resilient; early indications from our clients suggests employers remain calm and are preparing their contingency plans,” he said.

One can only hope.