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What’s causing the recent ‘Great Resignation’ phenomena?

If the old way of working no longer appeals to the youth of today, what will it take for Gen-Z and Millennials to return to abandoned job roles?

Over the last year, the service industry has lost workers at record speed.

Restaurants have been forced to close due to staff shortages, employees are digitally exposing bosses who ask workers to come in on their only day off and, in droves, people are turning to freelancing and even dabbling in cryptocurrency investment.

Calling long shifts for low income rates an ‘unsustainable way of life’, young people are desperate to be their own boss, if not to simply find an employer who values their worth as an employee and as a human being.

You’ve probably seen this discussed widely on Twitter and TikTok, but how serious has this trend actually been?

In the US in particular, workers have made it clear they are fed up with receiving low pay, being subjected to poor working conditions and subscribing to the narrative that work is the most important part of life.

Enhancing this stance has been the pandemic, where millions of people (both old and young) were dropped by employers without a second thought – many of whom had dedicated years of their lives to their jobs.

When vaccine distribution offered a returned sense of normalcy, employees fought back by refusing to return to work. At present, there are over 10 million jobs unfilled in the United States. The majority of these offer little to no employee benefits or security.

The problem is not that shift work in the service industry is undesirable, but rather that the emotional, physical, and mental effort required to perform such jobs are not reflected by workers’ payslips each month.

Against the profit backdrop of million-dollar businesses (take any fast-food or retail chain for example), workers on the front line often live pay check to pay check, earning as little as $14 an hour. This massive discrepancy has resulted in many throwing in the towel.

Quitting a job at a moment’s notice requires a level of privilege that most do not have. That said, for Gen-Z, life is all about freedom – even if that means anticipating momentary instability and uncertainty.

Those taking a stance against exploitative, toxic work environments are calling this a ‘resistance movement’, rather than a permanent resignation from the workforce. Gen-Z and Millennials know that earning an income is necessary, they simply want to feel valued and respected as they do it.

The resignation movement calls for a better work-life balance and the consideration of mental health benefits for employees. Flexible schedules, options for remote work, sufficient sick days, and stronger employee protection rights are all important changes people want to see.

So as labour union approval rates grew to their highest in 50 years, with 68 percent of Americans saying that they want their workplaces unionised, data analysts suggested that online spaces have helped workers band together and agree on employer expectations.

It looks like raised wages and adequate benefits are all it would take to lure young people back into the wonderful world of capitalist earning. But companies’ abilities to uphold these promises will be absolutely crucial if they want to keep us engaged.

Until that happens, those 10 million open jobs could remain on the market for a while.


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