In recent years, workers in all parts of the world have given up their jobs in record numbers.
Some have changed careers, others have left the labor market altogether.
In the United States, for example, August 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the labor force participation rate 1.0 percentage points below the February 2020 level.
In other words, people gave up and, in certain sectors and occupations, He didn’t come back. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the poor conditions in many workplaces during the pandemic.
The shortage of workers is most apparent in the hospitality and service industries, in positions such as dishwashers, truck drivers, retail workers, food servers, airport attendants, orderlies home and similar roles.
It’s not because people don’t want to work, experts say. Only they want better jobs; higher wages, better conditions.
The market turmoil caused by the pandemic has allowed some to turn to better jobs, and if the hardest-hit sectors want their workers back, they must find ways to make their workplaces more attractive.
Why are these positions open?
Particularly in the United States, data shows that it has been difficult for a long time to be a service worker.
In 2020, for example, full-time U.S. food counter employees earned an average of $23,960 per year, amount that does not exceed the poverty line for a household of four.
Weekly hours have rarely been guaranteed, making it difficult for them to have a secure income to cover bills or transportation and childcare.
All of this partly explains the fact that the turnover rate (that is, the rate of departure of people as a percentage of average annual employment) has been high for a long time in the service industries.
In 2017, it was 53.8% for workers in retail trade, 72.4% for workers in accommodation and food services and 30.6% for those in manufacturing jobs.
The blow of the pandemic
But while being a service worker was tough before the pandemic, once it hit things got downright miserable for many.
Retailers that have remained open have faced supply chain disruptions and ups and downs in customer demand.
Fewer employees had to work longer hours and increased overtime contributed to burnout. With schools closed and public transport curtailed, some employees have been torn between a lack of childcare and a tougher commute.
Worker Abuse Cases and Rude Customer Reports they firedand while some companies offered bonuses, few raised wages or offered hazard pay.
And in many cases, the work was dangerous.
Other forms of commerce have moved online, but “in the hospitality industry, for example, it is very difficult to replace someone who is at the reception of a hotel with someone who works virtually”, he said. Serge de Motta Veigaprofessor of human resources management at EDHEC Business School in Paris.
It meant frontline service workers, forced to interact with colleagues and customers while everyone else sheltered at home, were among the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
In the first year of the pandemic, 68% of those who died in the United States were workers in the labor, retail and service sectors.
The increase in desertion
Over the past two years, dropout rates have skyrocketed. In 2021, 64.6% of retail trade workers, 86.3% of accommodation and food service workers and just under 40% of manufacturing workers left their jobs.
While safety and general misery were the main factors, were not the only reasons of the mass exodus.
People are also looking for stability, which is hard to find in a low-wage job: a 2019 study found that minimum-wage jobs have a turnover rate of more than double the US national average.
“These jobs are precarious,” says da Motta Veiga. “Job security has become the number one thing people want, even above all the other perks like having flexible working hours or working from wherever you want.”
There’s another reason why so many people quit: because they can. Staffing shortages have left many businesses at the mercy of those who work.
With the labor market tilting so heavily in favor of the worker, it was easier to quit one job and find another, further reducing the incentive for people to return to jobs they deemed undesirable.
Why don’t people come back?
The resignation epidemic throughout 2021 and during this year, known as the Great Resignation, has left vacancies in all sectors.
But David Dwertmann, associate professor of management at Rutgers University School of Business, Camden, says it has been difficult to rehire workers for low-paying jobs in particular, for the same reasons people left them in the first place. .
He mentions a Pew research survey that asked people who quit their jobs why they left. Low pay was number one, followed by ‘lack of opportunity for advancement’ and ‘feeling disrespected’.
“If you’re flipping burgers or something, it’s not that easy to move up. Not everyone is going to become a manager. A lot of people are stuck in these jobs for years and years and years” , says Dwertmann.
Additionally, “workers just don’t feel like they’re valued enough and they don’t feel like they’re treated well enough.”
With a market flooded with better opportunities, people who felt trapped or mistreated in their jobs seized a golden opportunity to escape.
Another factor, adds Dwertmann, is the wave of retirements of so-called baby boomers which left even more voids in the workforce. “It’s kind of a perfect storm,” he says.
“I think covid-19 is probably [para los boomers que están considerando retirarse] It was a great reason to say, “You know what? I’m finished'”.
In the case of the United States, this exodus of baby boomersnotes Dwertmann, has been compounded by a lack of immigration in recent years that has left gaps in industries that normally employ newcomers.
“Partly because of the pandemic, partly because of policy changes, immigration to the United States has been cut in half,” he says. “And these are some of the people who were or were doing some of these low-skilled, low-educated jobs.”
What are companies doing?
It’s not uncommon these days to see signs outside fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and markets offering unheard-of starting hourly wages for new hires.
Many employers have instituted hiring bonuses: In 2021, Amazon announced it would pay $1,000 bonuses for warehouse and transportation jobs. Hilton hotels have started offering bonuses of $500 and more to room attendants and other staff.
Yet while financial incentives don’t hurt, they do nothing to address the other important things that workers want that “unfillable” jobs often don’t offer: flexibility, predictability, and better terms.
Focusing solely on money, argues da Motta Veiga, is shortsighted. While people want to be paid what they think their time and energy is worth, companies should also “ask people, ‘What do you want? What’s your priority? Is it that security? Is that flexibility?'”.
They have to get creative, he says, to make those jobs more attractive.
To fill an unoccupied position, concludes Dwertmann, it is necessary not only to make it financially attractive, but also to offer some flexibility, some guarantee of security and find ways to build loyalty.
“The pandemic is coming and the first thing people do is lay off a lot of workers,” he says.
“They thought when he slacks off everyone would show up again, but actually the employees are like, ‘You know what, you didn’t stay with me. I’m not coming back with you.'”