Examining the Labor Shortage




Nowadays, there seems to be no lack of “help wanted” signs scattered across the nation. Small businesses and big corporations alike advertise their need for workers through commercials on television, billboards overlooking the freeway, and signs propped up in window displays. Depending on whomever you ask, reasons for the labor shortage vary greatly, from protests over minimum wage working conditions to reluctance to work while receiving unemployment benefits. However, the actual cause is much more complex.


What is a Labor Shortage?

A labor shortage is when the number of workers with certain qualifications needed by employers is greater than the number of existing workers with those qualifications. In this context, it means there are not enough people applying for jobs to keep businesses running at their previous efficiency.


What are Reasons for the Labor Shortage?

COVID Exacerbations

Due to COVID restrictions over the past two years, many businesses were forced to switch to hybrid models of service, relying on more technical and digital skills than ever before. It is estimated that pre-COVID predictions of how long it would take for technology to be integrated into day-to-day work have advanced by ten years since the pandemic. This acceleration has left many workers without the necessary skill sets to succeed in today's work environment.


Minimum Wage Versus Living Wage

Minimum wage is the minimum legal wage set by law, while living wage is determined by the costs of living. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.


Although such information varies by state, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $13.50 per hour. However, an MIT study concluded that the minimum living wage in Massachusetts is $17.74 without children, and rises to $47.64 with two children. These wages indicate that minimum wage jobs, which describe a large number of available occupations, do not pay workers enough.


Child Care

Child care is an issue important to families across the nation. Currently, there are few suitable child care options available to working parents. The crucial need for child care disproportionately leads women to stay at home rather than spend more money on daycare services; as a result, a significant portion of female job applicants leave the working population. It is estimated that the American economy loses $12.7 billion annually due to the child care challenges parent-employees face.


Solutions

To bridge the gap of skills between what workers have and what companies require, many corporations, such as Goodwill, Google, and Amazon, are offering free digital training courses to anyone who desires instruction. Now that Americans understand the advantages of remote learning and working, more emphasis needs to be placed on gaining access to bandwidth in rural and urban areas alike. Furthermore, in order to address the childcare crisis, we need to prioritize creating affordable daycares, and de-stigmatize nanny work.


For people looking to enter the workforce, either now or in the future, it is important to do your research early. Know what skill sets and levels of education will be needed for the career path you wish to pursue. Look into scholarship programs and conduct extensive research before deciding to take out a student loan. But above all, know your worth, advocate for yourself, and attempt to find a job that suits your financial and emotional needs best.



Sources:


Art Bilger, founder and CEO of WorkingNation. “Op-Ed: There's Another Reason for the Labor Shortage.” CNBC, CNBC, 21 July 2021, www.cnbc.com/2021/07/21/op-ed-theres-another-reason-for-the-labor-shortage.html.


Autor, David. “Good News: There's a Labor Shortage.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/09/04/opinion/labor-shortage-biden-covid.html.


Sandra Bishop-Josef and others, “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis” (Washington: Council for Strong America, 2019), available at https://strongnation.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/602/83bb2275-ce07-4d74-bcee-ff6178daf6bd.pdf?1547054862&inline;%20filename=%22Want%20to%20Grow%20the%20Economy?%20Fix%20the%20Child%20Care%20Crisis.pdf%22.


Schochet, Leila. “The Child Care Crisis Is Keeping Women out of the Workforce.” Center for American Progress, 2019, www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2019/03/28/467488/child-care-crisis-keeping-women-workforce/#:~:text=Finding%20a%20child%20care%20program,found%20a%20child%20care%20program.


“State Minimum Wage Laws.” United States Department of Labor, 2021, www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/minimum-wage/state#mi.



About the Author:


Harper Lindsay is a rising sophomore student. She was elected as vice president of her sophomore class and has a passion for Model UN and cross country. Harper is the founder of Food For Fidos, a nonprofit organization which contributes to the amount of dog food in Boston food banks, to support people caring for their pets throughout difficult times.