Association: Hotels and restaurants experiencing staff shortages

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A sign saying "We are open" on a restaurant in Tallinn's Old Town in May 2020. Source: ERR/ Helen Wright

The chairman of the Estonian Hotels and Restaurants Association (Eesti hotellide ja restoranide liit) has said the sector is currently experiencing a shortage of workers and is struggling to find new employees.

Tourism was one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis and many workers were either laid off, received the government's wage subsidy or quit their jobs last year.

Ain Käpp, chairman of the board of the Estonian Hotels and Restaurants Association, said there are big concerns as many employers need new staff members all at once as society opens up again.

"If before there was one hotel that was recruiting, now they're all doing so," Käpp said. Hiring and training new members of staff can also take a long time, especially if new workers have no previous experience.

As the service sector has a reputation for being insecure, this can also be a barrier, he said. The association is currently working with the Unemployment Insurance Fund to teach the unemployed the necessary skills to work in the sector.

Käpp said university and school students are another target group for summer work as many employers need extra staff in the summer months. "In terms of the future, service work is a valuable experience," said Käpp. 

Karl Astok, one of the owners of the Kolm Tilli restaurant in Tartu, told ERR the staff shortage has been quite intense. He said the problem has been ongoing for approximately 18 months.

"Many employees decided to do other jobs during the crisis, and now that there are more and more customers in restaurants, it is difficult to get them back," Astok said. He said there is a shortage of chefs rather than wait staff.

Last week, the daily newspaper Postimees reported (link in English) that there are labor shortages in several sectors in Estonia according to a survey carried out by the Unemployment Insurance Fund labor barometer and the CVKeskus labor market survey.

The results showed the coronavirus crisis support measures have had a negative impact as people do not want to return to work, especially in jobs that have low salaries.

The CVKeskus website labor market survey showed demand for specialists and skilled labor has increased the highest and in June it was most needed in the marketing, mechanical and technical sectors.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund labor barometer survey showed the labor shortage has hit employers across the country and welders, care providers and IT specialists are needed, as well as, service staff.

According to the labor market survey, tourism sector employers advertised three times more jobs this June than a year ago.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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