To the discussion and hand wringing about the shortage of labour to fill jobs I offer the following observation. If you are unable to hire staff, the job you are trying to fill suffers from at least two of the following:

  1. Crummy work conditions.
  2. Crummy pay.
  3. Crummy boss and/or company.

Speaking with employers and reading articles it is very obvious that there is a shortage of workers to do things like wipe the asses of seniors and babies, work outside in crappy conditions, work seasonally, work short shifts, or do physically demanding work.

Make the job interesting, pay a fair wage, and you will find the people.

Too many companies depend on a business model that requires staff to work for less than a ‘living wage’, that is, either low wages or limited hours. These companies seem to resent the fact that potential employees are staying home because of what employers regard as a social safety net. Many also resent increases in the minimum wage to what still doesn’t approach a living wage. (Actually, a higher or lower minimum wage is not an issue if you can’t find people to work for you. A higher minimum wage is only a liability for employers if there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs.)

If you can’t operate your business while providing a living wage you are a poor businessperson. Restructure your business, do the work yourself, raise your prices, or get a job with a business that does pay a living wage.

For too long businesses have depended on people with limited education and experience, immigrants, and seniors with limited savings, to provide cheap labour. The cheap labour market is disappearing as young folk are increasingly encouraged to get more education, immigrants are admitted only if they have high value skills, while seniors save more and receive better old age support.

Lots of people no longer want to do the tasks their parents undertook – cook meals, do housework and maintenance, care for children and family members, …. And they expect to pay little for others to perform the tasks they are unwilling to do themselves because these jobs don’t require ‘education’. It’s just ‘work’, usually crappy work.

People require living wages and reasonable working conditions to do the crummy jobs we don’t want to do for ourselves.

As a first generation Canadian I have seen the work ethic of immigrants. These folks came with nothing and were forced to earn a living regardless of crummy job, crummy pay, and/or crummy boss, to survive and offer their children a better life. We now live in a post-immigrant era and businesses need to adapt.

Figuratively starving people by reducing social benefits or the social safety net to get them to do crappy jobs is criminal in my opinion. The Soviets literally did that to get their citizens to accept collectivization. An estimated 7 to 14 million died as a result. A brutal approach that did not in the end save the Soviet Union.

Businesses, stop whining and get creative in how you treat your employees and how you run your business. Introduce technology, restructure work, and consider raising your prices and wages to attract and retain employees. People who don’t want to cook, care for their elderly parents, or do housework, are not going to start doing it because it costs more. They may look for cheaper alternatives or less service, but they will be back. This may mean less business with higher margins. That’s a solid business strategy.

The pandemic has provided folks with time to stop and think about what is important in life. Many it seems are deciding that less is more. This is good for their mental health and the health of the planet. Less consumerism is tough on an economy that requires ever expanding consumerism.

I support the folks who are saying no to crappy jobs, crappy bosses, and crappy companies and are thus forcing companies to rethink what they are offering in exchange for what they are asking.

(An article in today’s offers a perspective on this very issue.)