The Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted a lot of mental and economic pain on the world. Both the illness itself, and the fear of contracting the illness generate distress, but so do the lockdown and social distancing measures to contain the spread of the virus. As vaccines against the virus are becoming available, the immediate and most important consequences of Covid-19 on health systems could soon be averted, but key challenges remain. This project proposes new evidence on the role of policies vs the illness in shaping mental health, and how information and cognition training support job finding in a labor market scarred by the crisis.
The first challenge is deteriorating mental health in many countries during the crisis, and the public debate does ascribes this to the measures to contain Covid-19. The first work-package focuses on how Covid-19 and policy measures to contain its spread, or cushion its economic ramifications, affect calls to 33 helplines, operating in 24 countries located around the globe. Helpline calls are triggered by distress, and the number of helpline calls, as well as the reasons for calling can be used to gauge the state of mental health of nations in real time (Brülhart and Lalive, 2020). We provide novel evidence on the effects on helpline calls due to Covid-19, to the measures to contain the illness, and economic support to cushion the effects of lockdown measures. Disentangling these impacts is challenging in the context of one country, but our research is based on novel data that we hand-collected from over 35 different helplines around the world.
The second challenge is unemployment which has increased by more than 50% from the onset of the crisis, and is bound to remain high for a longer period. Many job seekers suffer from deteriorating mental health, and Covid-19 could make employment trajectories less secure, and demand adaptation of their skills. The second work-package outlines an ambitious large scale, randomized field experiment, to be implemented in major regions of Switzerland, to understand how to assist job seekers in finding employment through actionable information to look for jobs, and training of cognitive functioning to improve multi-tasking and resilience to heighten the capacity to absorb information. This field experiment addresses the fact that job seekers are often not aware of their skills, or can not easily translate fine grained information on their skills into an actionable strategy for job search. Combining information with cognitive and stress resilience support is novel, and has the potential to provide strong impacts.
The third work-package provides job seekers with training for conducting job interviews online. Job interviews are the first and most important step to securing a job, but the large majority of job interviews are conducted online. Conducting job interviews online introduces a burden on the interviewer and on the interviewee (Aparna et al, 2020). Online interview training could improve job seeker's online interviewing skills and chances on the labor market.