Debunking ‘no one wants to work anymore’

Instead of saying “no one wants to work anymore,” we should be saying, “no one wants to be exploited anymore.”


I keep hearing “no one wants to work anymore.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, corporate America’s biggest lobbying group, claims there are over 10 million job openings right now in the US for which employers can’t find workers.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell says the U.S. is dealing with a “structural labor shortage” that won’t be resolved anytime soon.

But here’s the truth: there is no labor shortage.

There is a shortage of jobs paying sufficient wages to attract workers to fill them.

When a problem is wrongly described, the solutions posed often turn out to be equally wrong.

For most Americans, real inflation-adjusted wages continue to drop. Any pay increases workers may have earned in the past few years have actually been pay cuts, because wages have lagged behind the rising costs of basic necessities — like housing, food, childcare, and healthcare.

You don’t have to be a financial wizard to see why some workers might say the hell with it.

So, what should be done about the difficulty employers are having finding workers?

Simple. If employers want more workers, they should pay them more.

Many corporations are raking it in right now, they can clearly afford to.

Of course Jerome Powell and his colleagues at the Fed don’t want to hear this. They’re aiming to deal with the so-called “labor shortage” by slowing the economy so much that employers can find all the workers they need without raising wages.

But the Fed increasing interest rates to slow the economy will prevent millions of people from getting desperately-needed raises and cause millions more to lose their jobs — disproportionately low-wage workers, women and people of color.

Meanwhile, Republicans and some corporate economists blame the “labor shortage” on overly generous unemployment benefits. They say the way to get more people into jobs is to make their lives outside jobs less tolerable.

Rubbish. Most unemployed people are already hard up.

Pandemic benefits are long over, and even before COVID, America’s unemployment system was already the least generous of any rich nation.

Taken to its logical extreme, the corporate Republican argument holds water only if you don’t give a damn about workers.

Sure…you could eliminate all safety nets and at some point people without jobs will hurt so much they’ll have to take any available job, at any wage, whatever it demands.

But do this, and we’ll end up with an economy that’s even crueler than today’s economy.

Look: If we want more people to take jobs — AND we wish to live in a moral society where people can maintain decent lives — the answer is to pay people more.

Instead of saying “no one wants to work anymore,” we should be saying, “no one wants to be exploited anymore.”

Read it on Robert Reich’s blog.


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