WORLD Czech actor turns gravedigger as theaters remain closed in the pandemic


Czech actor turns gravedigger as theaters remain closed in the pandemic


15:16, March 18, 2021

Czech actor Tomas Novotny has been out of work since November, when theaters closed as part of the country's measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

A grave digging instructor and actor Tomas Novotny open an empty grave at a training cemetery as a part of Novotny's qualification procedure. /Reuters/David W Cerny

Without other prospects, Novotny took one of the few jobs for which demand has been growing since the beginning of the pandemic – digging graves.

It might seem quite a dark turn of events, but for the 36-year-old actor it has meant he can put food on the table.

"I'm glad for this opportunity," Novotny told Reuters at a training site in Prague, where he was demonstrating a technique using wood and iron rods to roll a 600 kg tombstone off a grave.

"The uncertainty and not knowing when we can return to normal is the worst thing... This gives me some work and if things go well I could be in charge of a cemetery."

Actor Tomas Novotny rehearses on stage in the closed Mana Theater in Prague. Reuters/David W Cerny

New skills for a post-COVID-19 workforce

Novotny's story is similar for many in Europe, who have been forced to change their careers as labor markets have been upended by the pandemic.

Consultancy firm McKinsey expects around 100 million workers in advanced economies will need to switch occupation within the next decade – 25 percent more than estimated before the COVID-19 crisis.

In order to do so, this same 100 million people will need to acquire new skills.

"The need for requalification will grow because the pandemic is speeding the need for companies to adapt," Jan Wiesner, president of the Czech Confederation of Employers and Business Association told Reuters.

But European citizens, as well as British, have been lagging in the digital economy due to a significant lack of basic digital skills.

To fill this gap in knowledge, the European Union is set to allocate a $894 billion recovery fund to help 120 million adults per year learn new skills.

Actor Tomas Novotny opens an empty grave at a training cemetery. Reuters/David W Cerny

Women and young people likely to be left behind

Among the most vulnerable groups worst affected by the pandemic are women and young people – and, once again, these are the groups that are likely to be left behind as workers scramble to reskill.

"Upskilling and retraining is up to them," Barbara Gerstenberger, head of the working life unit at Dublin-based Eurofound, told Reuters. "If this situation is not reversed, it will lead to longer-term consequences."

The European Commission has made a priority of its retraining push to reskill women and young people, with $12 billion to $13 billion available to do so, provided by partners in the automotive, microelectronics and defense industries.

When the pandemic will finally come to an end, maybe Novotny will go back on stage – or maybe COVID-19 will forever change his career path, like that of millions of people across Europe.

Source(s): Reuters

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