“Cost of living crisis”, “Energy price hike” and “Inflation” are the new buzz terms we hear everyday all throughout the media. Clearly costs for the average working person are going through the roof and vastly outstripping wages, however at the same time something a strange is happening; The term “staffing crisis” is becoming normalised and used frequently, as businesses across the country struggle to find the employees they need.
At what point as a country, do we sit down and honestly reflect on whether one of our key economic systems are still functional, without hysterics or virtue signalling nonsense. The UK had a slight lucid moment during the height of the Covid pandemic when our healthcare providers were running dangerously short of PPE and we started a national conversation (albeit muted) on whether our global supply chains had become too complex/long and whether there was a need for the domestic production of strategic and necessary goods. This questioning of the defunct status quo has led to a significant onshoring of PPE production with a number of NHS trusts setting up or commission local production. It remains to be seen whether the whole of the PPE supply chain will be on shored (including raw goods) to make it a significant change or whether it is just the final stage of production.
It took a national disaster for a half-hearted discussion on domestic manufacturing, so will we need to wait for an all-out economic collapse before we admit the world of work is no longer fit for purpose. The economic participation rates are still 1-2% lower for UK residence than before the pandemic, with unemployment rates at roughly the same level. We have seen hundreds of thousands of people check out of the jobs market, when at the same time vacancies are at an all time high. Our political and economic leaders are brushing over this frightening statistic and are refusing to acknowledge the labour market has been becoming increasingly dysfunctional over the past decades.
So, what can be done to prevent economic collapse, what can be done to fix the labour market?
First we need to have an honest debate acknowledging the problem and second we need to collectively admit we cannot keep using a model which no longer works. Then and only then can we look at new ways of work, that both meet the needs of employers and employees alike.