Strong employee skills matching and technological capabilities have helped Togolese firms retain workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Companies in Togo that were satisfied with the skills of their workforce and had invested heavily in research and development before the pandemic were less likely to dismiss workers once COVID-19 hit, according to a new report by the International Trade Centre (ITC). That's because these firms valued their workers and drew on their skills to respond to the crisis.
Just 6% of firms whose workforce skills were aligned with enterprise needs let workers go during the pandemic. In contrast, 25% of companies that had weak skills matching before the pandemic had to fire employees.
This finding, which makes the case for investing in technological capabilities and spreading appropriate skills throughout the workforce, is detailed in Promoting SME Competitiveness in Togo: A resilient foundation for transformative growth.
The report is based on company data from 573 business interviewed under the ITC's SME Competitiveness Survey and a survey of 1,084 businesses on the impact of COVID-19. It was prepared with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Togo and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Local consumption promotion.
The data suggest a vicious cycle: companies that lacked strong hiring processes before the pandemic had poor skills matching when it hit, cut work hours in the short term to cope and laid off employees in the medium term. The implication is that firms should invest in the skills of their workforce during good times to reduce layoffs during crises.
Given that skills are so important to the resilience of workers and the businesses that employ them, it is problematic that a disproportionate share of firms in remote northern regions of Togo suffer from a mismatch between worker skills and company needs. Furthermore, access to electricity and other key competitiveness factors 'is unequal across regions, and also varies according to the age and gender of the business owner'.
Investing in the 'missing middle' of education - technical and vocational training - can give Togolese workers the skills their employers need to be competitive and resilient.