Navigating the impact of geo-political instability on talent management

Written by Gemma Ellis  •  Future of work  •  21 February 2023

If there were ever any doubt, recent reports of recession, unprecedented tech sector layoffs, and the war raging in Ukraine all serve as stark reminders of the uncertain and unstable geo-political landscape businesses currently operate in. Rest assured it’s not all bad news, as changes to global economic systems demand new skills and fresh talent, creating both challenge and opportunity.

Having enjoyed a period of relative stability, minus a few major disruptors such as the collapse of the USSR and the Covid-19 pandemic, humanity appears to have reached a tipping point. With war in Ukraine, economic downturn and political turmoil, global superpowers are facing challenges of tremendous proportions and the impacts are being felt in all areas of society, particularly the labour market. As global systems and processes are updated and redeveloped, the type of talent required, where it is sourced from, and what it is applied to also require a refresher. 

The Coronavirus pandemic threw into unflattering light the fragility of the modern supply chain, which all countries globally have come to heavily rely upon. The economic impact of its collapse was felt worldwide, with data from the World Economic Forum (WEF) revealing week-on-week trade in China, the United States, and Europe halved because of the crisis. Additional to economic loss, this breakdown in the supply chain also exposed a security vulnerability, as it highlighted the dependency of many countries on a few suppliers for essential goods. APAC, for instance, currently produces 60% of the raw materials used in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and exports 93% of the entire world’s PPE. These issues, combined with the instability of war, natural disaster – witnessed most recently in Turkey and Syria – and global political volatility, mean that many countries are now moving towards self-sufficiency and looking much closer to home for their workforce and suppliers. 

As with any top-level change, the impacts of these major economic and political shifts filter down in a myriad of ways. In terms of recruiting talent, it is important to recognise that international movement of personnel may be restricted for several reasons. The President of China, Xi Jinping, finally abandoned the government’s ‘zero-covid’ policy on December 7th 2022 following years of rampant and sudden lockdowns since the pandemic began. Despite this change in policy, movement between China and the rest of the globe remains complex. The trade war between China and US continues to result in economic and political sanctions placing pressure on the workforces of both countries, and restricting movement of personnel.  

The war in Ukraine is also impeding access to talent, as Russian citizens face the effects of Western governments’ sanctions. On the other hand, the wartime exodus from Ukraine has seen countries all over Europe waiving visa requirements and offering thousands of jobs exclusively to the Ukrainian refugees. This influx of highly skilled refugees into Europe provides significant talent opportunity for businesses. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also accelerated Net Zero and green energy planning, as much of Europe continues to experience the impacts of the energy crisis brought on by Western reliance on Russian gas. The development of sustainable energy pathways was already on the global agenda, following renewed commitment made at COP27, but this is now prioritised by governments aiming to lockdown energy supply. Consequently, we are witnessing a surge in job creation to meet the demands of emerging disciplines. Businesses and HR teams must stay alert for rising trends to be able to capitalise on these changes. 

And finally, as China diminishes in popularity for offshore investment, many countries are now seeking to near shore or re-shore their businesses. This will mean new employment opportunities in other Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Laos, as they step forward to fill the gap in the market. In other parts of the world, interest in talent from the rapidly growing workforces of Latin America and Africa is escalating. Latin America is a region rich with opportunities for investment, growth, and innovation and is also home to a booming technology industry. Knowledge of talent and policy in these countries is quickly becoming a top priority for recruiters looking to deliver and take advantage of opportunities. 

To find out how you can prepare for and thrive in this changing climate, download our report which explores the five mega-trends impacting talent and skills in 2023 and beyond. In this guide, Phill Brown, our Practice Director – Data Analytics & Insights, will offer predictions for the future, as well as actions that businesses can take to adapt to each mega-trend and operate effectively in the new world of work.  

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