The Great Resignation--as journalists, social scientists and economists are calling it--is here. People are leaving their jobs en masse.
It occurs to me however, that one person's Great Resignation might be another person's Great Awakening.
People aren't leaving the workforce because they don't need to work. They're leaving because they've begun to wake up to the lack of equity--the unfairness--built into the system.
They're Awakening to:
--workers are expected to be loyal but they can expect no loyalty in return.
--workers are expected to work perhaps thousands of hours a year without pay.
--workers are expected to work more than the occasional weekend without additional pay.
--workers are expected to be ok with ending the year with fewer real dollars in their paychecks (after taxes and inflation) than they began the year.
--workers are expected to accept that they have less year after year, rather than more.
--workers are told they must accept factory-like working conditions, chaos and noise because open-plan offices maximize creativity when all they really do is strip away dignity and save the company rent.
--workers no longer regularly receive either raises or cost-of-living increases. They're often lied to about this.
--people with no knowledge of a particular industry--no skin in the game other than money--are running the industry.
--workers are meant to accept compensation inequities where the top of the food-chain makes 200 to 300 times the pay of a median worker.
--workers are tired of working for an industry that disparages the very work the industry is supposed to do. It commoditizes the "unfair advantage," (creativity) and promotes instead that which is a truly a commodity (data.)
--workers never actually see a paycheck or even a pay stub. Everything happens electronically and there is never a handshake or a thank you.
--workers essentially have no interaction with the people and the macro-forces that control their career path and livelihood.
Basically, there are two ways to run any sort of social organization. From a marriage, to a corporation, to a nation-state.
1. WITT. We're in this Together. When people--even those who are nominally unequal--share the risks and the fortunes in equitable proportions.
2. YOYO. You're on Your Own. Where powerful forces make the rules, take the money and blame you for your torpor and vassalhood.
I've been working fairly steadily since I was a child-star back in the early 1960s. I started paying into Social Security way back in 1961 when I was already earning a middle-class income because I had platinum blond hair and disarmingly winsome blue eyes and starred in some minor TV commercials.
I've had in that time maybe 50 jobs. From installing aluminum siding, to working as a night-clerk in a downtown Chicago liquor store, to assistant dean of students at Barnard College to about a dozen and a half agencies.
I've observed that most people enjoy work. They enjoy the fruits of their labor. And the sense that they are taking care of their own and building something, somehow.
What's changed isn't the work ethic of workers. I think societally, we might be having a Popeye moment. "That's all I can stands. I can'ts stands no more."
Maybe people are realizing what you realize when you wake up to the realization that you're in a diseased relationship.
You're putting a lot more into it than your getting out of it.
People are resigning because they're not resigned to accept that inequity.
BTW, if you want a macro-economic look at what's happening today, you might want to check out The Great Leveler by Princeton professor, Walter Scheidel. There's a lot of pretty heavy economics in it, complete with GINI coefficients that put a mere copywriter's brain into a spin cycle.
Nevertheless, if you can stick with it, you might understand something of my generation. I grew up at a time of economic compression--when the distance between the richest and the poorest was narrowing. When there was more fairness in the world.
It would be safe to say, entire generations (myself included) believed society was generally moving in the direction of more equality. Scheidel believes--and I go along with him--that what my generation regarded as normal was really an anomaly. Wealth begets wealth and poverty begets poverty. That's what's happening in the West today and the Great Resignation is just one result.
FWIW, here's the review of the book, since I can't imagine anyone but my brother and nephew, Ben, slogging through it. Mind you, it's a review from the cheery neo-fascists at the Wall Street Journal. So take it with a spoonful of gruel. Mean-spirited gruel.