Stability is key for today weary job seekers

  • 2009-11-25
  • By Arta Ankrava

RIGA - The current unemployment level in Latvia is around 13 percent, according to recent data from the State Employment Agency. Numbers are higher in the eastern regions and lower in Riga. Tirgzinis research agency, in cooperation with job search Web site, have come out with a study that suggests job seeker activity is actually rather low.  In addition, the data is said to show that people prefer applying for jobs with fixed, albeit lower, income over salaries that depend on a company’s monthly profit.

Tirgzinis director Ieva Kozlovska commented that this is a lack of self-confidence among job seekers. Compared to 2007, job applicant activity for an identical vacancy has fallen by 78 percent. Have the working men and women of Latvia truly lost all belief in themselves in the economic downturn to simply give up looking for employment in such great numbers?
What are they doing? – playing it safe. It seems like most people take comfort in stability, even if it removes them from the possibility to potentially earn more. This would explain why job seekers keep their distance from risks, preferring steady, albeit slightly more modest income. Can this truly be interpreted as a sign of economic cautiousness and almost passiveness, rather than just common sense?

Director of State Employment Agency Baiba Pasevica expressed her surprise about the study’s outcome, telling TVNET that her agency’s observations rather contradict this. Pasevica stated that on the contrary, vacancies fill up almost instantly, because of the huge demand. Overqualified job seekers often apply for positions much lower than they do normally. 
A strikingly interesting characteristic of the current job market is the notable prevalence of vacancies that have to do with sales. Look at any job listing Web site in Latvia and calls for sales managers, telemarketers, salespeople and sales promoters jump at you in a homogenous mass. Even positions like project managers and office administrators uncover a variety of duties, including telemarketing, active marketing and sales promotions, when clicked on. What are all these companies so eager to sell?

Anything. With consumers becoming more cautious with their spending, the logical thing to do seems to meet them half way – call them, text them, drop them a line. People have received phone calls from Parex on state holidays; woken up by Stockmann on Saturday mornings, etc. ‘Hard sell’ seems to be the vendors’ answer to the slightly bruised and battered purchasing power of Latvia. Hence the numerous ads for marketers of various kinds and methods, often promising revenue according to closed sales. Job seekers, being from the same category as the weary consumer, realize the limitations of such positions and rather go for fixed income work. This might result in the apparent inactivity, observed by and Tirgzinis.
We are in a situation where private employers often automatically expect new employees to agree to receive the minimum wage officially, and be paid the rest ‘in an envelope.’ They pretend to be paid, while employers pretend to pay taxes. The whole country is seemingly pretending to produce, make and construct, while others are pretending to sell anything to anyone, as if overlooking reality.

We are trying to ride a bicycle with no chain up a fairly steep hill here. There might even be a chain, but it is so loose it hardly does the trick. The private sector keeps looking for feet to keep the pedals moving, while this maintains balance, but does not really aid in going forward.
The state, as well as businesses, are in survival mode. Investments are seen as too risky, cutting expenses is emerging as a pattern instead. Most resources spent are targeted at promoting what is left, rather than producing something new, that would tighten the loose economic mechanism in Latvia.

Until then, we might assume the job seeker to be lazy and passive, or perhaps simply tired from trying to make it work in a situation where nothing reaps a continuous, blind nothing.