The Pandemic Labor Shortage Myth: Why Workers Are Resigning

Featured Illustration: Boston University

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The pandemic has created what many have signaled as a labor shortage. However, there cannot be a labor shortage — only exploitation and people have reached their limit of it.

During the pandemic, many people have found several alternatives to earning income or joining other industries due to their employment being closed or not giving enough hours to sustain their household.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 9.3 million job openings in April (updated in June), this is with the percentage of layoffs being decreased while resignations have increased. With the given data, one can assume that there is in fact a labor shortage. However, the pandemic has unveiled the illusion of our economy that directly impacts workers. Some examples that led to such actions  include:

  • Poor structural measures regarding COVID-19
  • Low wages for the working class (with a higher amount of workload)

Those who believe that there is a labor shortage also are most likely to think that workers do not want to work. It is not as simple as that, rather it is quite complicated. Companies have made it difficult and unsafe to work under such conditions. Moreover, many management and leadership staff have blamed the unemployment benefits for the lack of interest in working, shaming those who use the benefits that their tax dollars created.

Employees are putting their health at risk and making way less money than being on unemployment benefits. 

Workers need and deserve the ability to work under safe measures. The lack of COVID relief aid further affects those living below the poverty level.

In addition, why are we not holding companies to a higher standard? If many companies are understaffed, that means employees are responsible for double the workload without any additional compensation (especially now with the country opening up more). Another factor is the poor company culture. Treating employees like they are just bots to the company and not real human beings ignites the desire to resign.

Economist Heidi Shierholz from The New York Times explains that when wages are raised and employers cannot find any employees, then labor shortages are created. To say that there is currently a labor shortage and that workers do not want to work is a dangerous myth. We need to further focus on the needs of workers and shift the conversation on wage shortage rather than labor shortage.