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The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations Read Today's Bugler       Read current Blogging News: BERT

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Workforce Woes: Introduction

(July 11, 2007)  According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao (and our very own Recruiting Animal), we are dealing with a "workforce of brats". Echoing the dismal problem that Jeff Hunter addresses in his brilliant numbered essays (start at 28 and work backwards), Chao does the standard Republican governmental thing and blames the workers for the labor shortage. Hunter, in the standard liberal twist, blames the government (the schools, that is).

The basic complaint is that "you just can't get good help anymore". Somehow, this does not seem like a novel problem. Yelling at the workers as a way to motivate them (a Theory X approach if we've ever seen one). or hoping to redesign the supply system to produce better output (a Theory Y approach) both sidestep the basic problems.

From here, it looks like there are four sides to the workforce problem

  1. A demographic shortage of workers cause by the flattening of population growth
  2. Cultural changes caused by radically shrinking family sizes (related to item 1)
  3. Rapidly shifting technological infrastructure
  4. Labor Market Arbitrage made possible by item 3.

These problems are coupled with somewhat standard intergenerational squabbling about the meaning and quality of work. At major generational transitions like the ones we face in today's markets, the two sides of the generational fence tend to polarize into grumpy old farts and lazy good for nothing young fools. Both camps revel in righteous indignation. One group mocks the other's tatoos,  piercings and apparent work ethic. The other group winces at the conservative shortsightedness of the aging world-savers.

Of course, there's a half dozen other related issues like

  • imbalances in population growth rates by geographies
  • the telephone pole demographic architecture (versus the traditional pyramid)
  • overspecialization of specific regional workforces
  • consequences of small family size on education
  • uncharted inflation driven by escalating real estate values
  • downward pressure from workers who won't retire
  • and so on.

Over the next couple of days, we're going to dive a little deeper into the problem. It doesn't seem, from here, that it's very likely that the shiftless, lazy souls who are mooching at the corporate trough are either morally inferior or the garbage out of a defective educational system.


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