When the Bottom Falls Out

All civilizations are predicated on a disposable workforce. The measure of how disposable has changed, but it takes only a minor look across the globe to see how well that has worked out. Your Nike shoes aren’t made by adults with retirement plans…

The way most of this works is that a pyramid of financial power has things go forwards. People at the top do next to nothing of use in the day to day work, and yet share a massive amount of the financial rewards. The people at the bottom are what makes the world go round. Lose the board of a company, things still roll for quite a while. Lose the people running the store, then there’s no money coming in at all.

The workforce has undergone a massive shift due to the pandemic, with dozens of causes, a few of which below.

  • The largest one is simply death. 5.3m people have died. Not all of them are working age granted, but it’s still a massive global impact.
  • Retirement. When sh!t goes sideways, people take a sober look around them. A lot of people simply decided to nope their way out and move on out of the market. The age curve has a massive amount of baby boomers all leaving the market within a very small window. The lack of training/information sharing also means the people retiring are creating gaps in the ability for a business to conduct business.
  • Birth rates. The replacement rate is 2.1 In 1990, the global rate was 3.2, primarily driven through massive medical breakthroughs in 3rd world countries (lower child death rates). Today, it’s 2.3 globally. In the US it is currently 1.64.
  • Immigration reforms. This one is touchier… but if there are less country-born people to replace the workforce, those people need to come from somewhere. There are very few people in Canada/US that are willing to pick fruit in an orchard for 10 hours a day for $50. If these jobs are not filled, then food rots and doesn’t get to the supermarket/table. Global travel restrictions and reforms have certainly dropped overall immigration rates.
  • Stimulus packages have dramatically favoured the already financially stable, especially in the US. Even in Canada, the stimulus package was substantially higher than minimum wage and allowed people the time to assess their state.
  • Abusive practices are highlighted. The restaurant industry is a big one, where people are paid minimum (or less), have shifting hours, often work evenings/weekends, and have to put up with Karens on a daily basis. Many people have taken the opportunity during the closure to gain a new skill or new job, and found a better life balance. In particular replacing that other group that finally retired. I would be remiss not to point out r/antiwork
  • Employer/Employee relationships are transactional. Corporations have made it clear that money matters more than people, and the current generation of workers has very little attachment to the company they work for. Maybe the people, or the tasks, but not the company.
  • Wages vs inflation are not reflective of wage vs cost of living.
  • Remote work allows people to perform many types of tasks from anywhere. Particularly in locations where the cost of living is much lower than an urban setting. This increases the number of jobs available to an individual, and therefore choice.

The ‘bottom’ of the workforce therefore has less workers available to do the jobs, and the businesses now need to compete with the market. If Burger King offered $100,000 to flip burger, they wouldn’t have a staffing issue. Combine that with less company loyalty, people aren’t exactly willing to take any amount of stress when they can easily find somewhere else for either better hours or more money, or even both.

Seems like the disposable workforce has been disposed of. Fancy that.

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