Employers are experiencing challenges filling job vacancies. If you listen to the right wing media you won’t know what the major underlying reasons are. They boil down to what I will call the 2 C’s: compensation and conditions.
The pandemic has made a lot of people reevaluate what they want in a job. Considering that Republican administrations since the 1980s – yes, it started with Reagan – have ruined the economy for the working class I have long wondered just how long many would take any job even when they were losing money by going to work. The pandemic has opened a lot of eyes. When you spend most, all or sometimes even more than your paycheck on child care, transportation and lunches why bother working? If you are going broke why not sit home in the process? The pandemic has been especially hard on women with children. Schools (which too many Americans use principally as day care) and day care facilities closed forcing many women to leave jobs outside the home to become fulltime moms. As they reevaluated going back to work, they realized that in a low paying job they really weren’t netting any money or certainly not enough to justify their action.
The openings are most prevalent at the low paying end of the labor market. This is not a skills gap. I’m certainly not demeaning the job, but it doesn’t take a lot of training and skills at the “Today’s specials are” or “Would you like fries with that?” end of the unskilled labor market; but those workers pay the same prices at the grocery store, for rent and when buying sneakers for the kids as everyone else does.
Unemployment compensation is not a career path. I invite any of the highly paid “economists” at right wing think tanks (wow! applying that term to right wing institutions is painful for me!) to try living on unemployment compensation. In fact, legitimate study after study has disproven the theory that people are staying home because the unemployment benefits are too high.
To be fair there are also some problems at the higher end of the market where occasionally the skills gap is a significant factor. However those openings, while they make great stories for the right wing media, are relatively few and far between. I was speaking with a friend who runs a very high tech team with members on three continents. The pay in his company is high and the benefits very good. His challenges are both the skills gap and that many people have simply changed their life style because of the pandemic and are now simply choosing to have one less person in the household work.
The other issue is working conditions. Again the problems are mainly at the lower end of the skills and compensation scales. Many lower paying jobs necessitate direct contact with others. In a pandemic that is a concern. Vaccines are part of the picture here but not the way right wing mythology teaches. It is not that people won’t fill the jobs because they refuse to be vaccinated, (the overall loss of employees to vaccine mandates is less than 2%) it is that workers are reticent to take jobs where they have to interact with unvaccinated people. The simple bottom line is that if you want to jump start the economy and get back to the old normal the best personal action you can take toward those goals is to get vaccinated. If we are all fully vaccinated the risk approaches zero.
By sitting home for a time many workers realize just how badly they were treated (sexual harassment being high on the list) and have simply decided that they aren’t going back to that.
If you are an employer the best way to recruit and retain a staff is to compensate them fairly and treat them with respect and concern for their safety. Also, in my opinion, it is the best way to avoid a union if you, like most employers, would rather not deal with one. If I’m well paid and treated fairly, why would I want to pay union dues? My theory has always been that the greatest cause of unions is bad management.
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