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Worker Shortage

Posted by Matt Postiff June 16, 2022 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

One of our church leaders wrote to me a few months ago about what he called a "strange shortage of workers" in spite of the high demand for jobs by employers (over 10 million at this writing). I would add that the large number of side-lined workers and people on unemployment (today numbering over 1 million) make the causes of this worker shortage somewhat mysterious. Where did all the workers go? This has become an issue at corporate meetings and in the media.

The person who was communicating with me commented that this whole scenario represents an opportunity for Christians to stand out as being different, which we are in everything, including labor. I agree with him.

Although I am unable to determine the root causes of the great worker shortage, let me offer a few thoughts sparked by my friend at church:

1. Wages are stagnant. They are not keeping up with inflation. If wages are going up at 3%, that sounds wonderful. But with inflation at 8.6%, that means wages are actually going down by 5%, more or less. It can be a depressing situation. But this does not mean that Christians give up work. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work the garden. Work is a gift from God, and it is something we can do and enjoy to a certain extent.

2. The government dole is easy to access. Many people are on unemployment. Some are on disability but are perfectly able to hold some job—not any job, but some job. We have a dear senior citizen in our church who has a disability and rightly receives disability support. But she wants to work, and does work, to supplement at the level she physically is able, and within the constraints of her low income housing and such. My point is that she works. Good for her!

3. There is a poor work ethic. An entitlement mentality exists in many people whereby they feel that they are "owed" some basic level of subsistence. The calls for UBI (universal basic income) and other "free" money are manifestations of this. Christians should be far away from this trend. Any family man who, in this economy, is out of work for any length of time is not looking hard enough for work. It is not as if there are 1 million job openings and 10 million seekers. There are 10 million job openings and 1 million seekers. It is easy to find work. You might not like the work, but that is why it is called work! If a man will not work, then neither should he eat! (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

4. Anecdotally, I spoke with a business owner in our area who said that he has noticed many families are switching gears to have mom stay at home. This trend is because, according to his explanation, sending the kids to daycare at $400 per week means that mom earning $650 outside of the home per week does not get the family significantly farther ahead, when you consider the other costs of having a second vehicle, gas, insurance, etc. The American Psychological Association laments the movement of women out of the workforce. They attribute it to "insidious societal messages that women should be mothers and that mothers should put their families first...Instead of opting out...women are being pushed out." I actually rejoice at this trend because children need mom at home. That is ridiculed as an old-fashioned patriarchal thing to say, but many women are recognizing the blessing of being at home with their children in the young years. If you want to be a mom at home, go for it! There is nothing wrong with it, and there is no higher calling to which you can aspire than to influence the next generation.

I have long believed that the entrance of many women into the workforce over the years has had the completely predictable impact of increasing worker supply; this depresses wages. As a result, it has become harder for a family to make it on the income of one spouse. But if some (women) pull out of the work force, this reduces the supply of workers and should push up wages a bit. I do not count that as an "insidious" thing.

5. There is the great resignation. Some of these resignations were what we might call permanent, but others were simply to move on to another better job. Some people left work because they disagreed with the COVID and vaccination policies of their employers (either too strict or too lenient). Others left their job because the pandemic caused them to realize things about their quality of life, dissatisfaction with their career, or a desire for more liberal remote-work policies.

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