This past year has been one that will go down into our history books due to global impact of the coronavirus. Companies closed their offices, trains have never been so quiet and the labour market changed. The virus demanded adaptability from everyone and it made people think twice about their next step. This also applied for our CEO, Han Kolff. Especially because of this new year in which people will be vaccinated worldwide for COVID-19 what will again influence the way we live. For example, what will this change do for the labour market in 2021? Kolff shares his predictions.

Impact COVID-19 on external hiring

“The impact of the coronavirus on the hiring market for knowledge-intensive functions in 2020 has remained limited,” says Kolff. “Naturally, in the beginning we saw a setback in new hiring requests and worked hours. However, the positive trend started carefully from May onwards. Also the number of professionals whose assignments were actually terminated, was very limited. There are three reasons for this; 1) highly educated knowledge workers can perform work for clients remotely, 2) they are often working in business-critical processes of organisations, with the result that these projects simply continued and 3) government organisations make a lot of use of external professionals, they proved to be a stable hiring party during the corona crisis.

Also for ‘permanent’, this statement is supported by figures from the CBS. At the end of 2019, a record level of 286 thousand open vacancies was reached. As a result of the corona crisis, there was a 30 per cent drop, causing the number to fall by 86 thousand. Nevertheless, by the end of September the number of unfilled vacancies had risen again to 216 thousand. This is expected to increase further in the last quarter of 2020 and to rise even more in 2021.

Predictions for 2021

“Corona is driving the flexibilisation of the labour market in 2021, stemming from the further increasing need for organisations to move with the market, the need to get a grip on hiring and a new boost in digitalisation,” says Kolff. He explains these three causes as follows:


  • By allowing the cost of staff to move with projects, business pressures, the market and the economy, it is possible to work more cost effectively. In addition, the urge for flexible working is as great as ever among professionals. Being able to determine their own working hours, working days, assignments and rates is still attractive to many. With the half-life of skills shrinking fast, and the fact that many jobs now come and go in a matter of years, professionals heavily increase their employability by working across different assignments and companies, training themselves on the job for the next gig.
  • Organisations that have a grip on their external hiring know exactly who is hired at which location in the organisation and why. Organisations that did not have that picture at the start of the corona crisis proved to be less capable of moving with market developments.
  • Location-specific work proved to be a risk factor. During the crisis, work as we knew it before changed to mass working from home, which made the need to automate – unfortunately painful – clear. This gives a new boost to the digitalisation drive of organisations. This results in more demand for online and IT specialists, who relatively often work on the basis of a flexible employment relationship.

Kolff states that service providers who can respond to these needs with relevant data-driven services and a good balance between tech (digitization of processes) and touch (personal contact, good advice), will be the winners of the year.

Finally, Kolff expresses his confidence that “the new cabinet to be formed in 2021 shows the ambition to align labour market legislation – with the DBA act of course as a hot topic – to the desire for flexibility of clients and professionals, of course with sufficient social security for everyone who wants it.”