Post-pandemic, if I dare say it, has seen some radical challenges when it comes to attracting hourly and more junior-role staff within the employment market. Some have asserted that this shortage is because of the expanded pandemic unemployment benefits that millions have been relying on financially to provide for their families when they suddenly lost their jobs 18 months ago. With those benefits having recently ended for an estimated 7.5 million people, will we see a major resurgence in the labor force? I am not so sure and discuss why below.
With terrifying headlines splashed across the news daily for the past 18 months, many are understandably frightened and are consequently scared to return to work, especially with the new Delta variant of COVID-19 and the vast amounts of misinformation surrounding the vaccine. And for those who are on the lower end of the wage spectrum, why would they risk their own and loved ones' lives and health to earn $15 an hour? If you ask me, that’s a completely valid point and is something that would go through my mind too.
For many, the cost of childcare is too high, and they do not have family available to look after their children. This has become a real problem: over the last 18 months, families have become accustomed to having people at home who can look after their children and reverting back to pre-pandemic childcare arrangements may not be possible. Sadly, statistically, it appears that this greatly impacts women with studies showing that there are 1.8 million less women in the labor force since the pandemic began—for a myriad of reasons, including childcare.
Families have had to be resilient during the pandemic and many have had to learn how to buckle down and live off less since they had to survive on only a single source of income. This has allowed them to have one partner at home caring for dependent family members, furthering their education, or reskilling into other occupations (not to mention the obvious benefit of having one person available to maintain and run their household). After being forced to learn how to live on a single source of income and completely upending their lives to take care of their family, why would they then completely upend their lives again in order to return to a minimum wage job? It’s extremely clear in this instance why many may not be running back to join the labor force.
Effects of Benefits Are Slow to Wear Off:
The employees in the labor market who are paid the least are typically the most resourceful—they have to be in order to survive. So during this time where they have been receiving extra unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, these workers have resourcefully built up a level of savings. And that savings will be able to see them through for a period of time, even though the expanded benefits have ceased.
Companies like Care.com, Uber, and DoorDash have created a novel amount of flexible opportunities for this labor force. These jobs have schedules that work around employees and their lives, which can make them more attractive to potential workers over an hourly job role at a local restaurant, warehouse, or store. The level of freedom that gig jobs provide means that people can more seamlessly fit in life and family, while still having the ability to earn as much as they can, on their terms. These opportunities are clearly stealing the limelight away from traditional jobs.
Retraining and Education:
With the pandemic causing so much uncertainty in the world and with many losing their jobs overnight—even 18 months (and a vaccine) later it’s still not clear when life will completely return to normal—many saw this period of uncertainty and disruption as a prime opportunity to reskill and re-educate into other sectors or promotional levels within their current industry. This has caused many workers to wait to return to the job market until they have completed the necessary training or education especially since they are hoping for more pay and a greater amount of stability.
Last but not least, many workers have switched or are in the process of switching careers to other sectors and occupations. The pandemic opened many people’s eyes to the real possibility of losing their job and source of income literally overnight. And because of this, they have resorted to looking for other career opportunities that are less vulnerable to disruption during a pandemic and that will give them the stability and sense of security that most crave from a job. This specific labor force has moved on and will probably never come back to fill the jobs they have now left behind.
In my opinion, it's clear that there is going to be a labor shortage for a good period of time even though the expanded benefits have stopped. All of the above reasons give a clear picture of the various causes behind the labor shortage in the market, which is clearly far more complex than the claim that expanded benefits were keeping workers out of work. The real reasons involve workers making career changes, valid health concerns and fears, and the vast number of gig opportunities that are available today. Clearly, the pandemic has caused a major shift in the labor market, which in turn will cause a shortage of that hourly wage labor force for the foreseeable future.
Author: Arran Stewart, CVO and Co-founder of Job.com
Original article found here