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The pandemic

Staff shortages threaten our recovery

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Jamie Rogers can’t get his staff back to work, says John Harris in The Guardian. As lockdown started lifting, a handful quit his award-winning restaurant in Kingsbridge, south Devon. He has had to offer a £1,000 bonus to managers if they guarantee “they will stick with him through the summer”. Jobs in the town “that were worth £10 an hour last year are suddenly paying double that”. Rogers’s dilemma is part of a bigger trend: a global labour shortage. The US Chamber of Commerce warns of a crisis affecting businesses “across every industry, in every state”. There is a similar sense of angst in Europe and Asia. 

Everywhere, a shortage of workers is driving up wages, while the pandemic has planted “big questions in people’s minds” about the balance between life and work. One former head chef, for example, is now working for Tesco, happy that he no longer has to do a 60-hour week and “probably making the same money”. Because of the labour drought, restaurant chains are paying staff up to 15% more and construction firms are upping wages by 10%. The problem is aggravated by a shrinking workforce, as birth rates drop and people live longer. It could all spell trouble: rising wages usually result in inflation, which could tip our economy into recession. In the meantime it’s good news for lowly employees, who finally have the “bargaining power” they’ve lacked for years – and a pay rise as well.

Read the full article here.