The Great Clear Out
The pandemic changed a lot of things, many of them positive. Great innovations were not only introduced, but adopted. Remote working, Zoom quizzes and calls,, supermarket deliveries, embracing the walk and dining outside have now become almost standard practice. But, now that Ireland is getting back on track, many businesses realise that in their effort to stay solvent, they let go many valuable workers. These have now found new jobs, left Ireland or chosen a new career.. There is a major skills shortage. For those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s, when there was no work for anyone, it is amazing to see that not only do we have plenty of work for everyone who wants to work, but we also need to import ,manpower.
Many people now refer to The Great Retirement, when so many people availed of the opportunity to take early retirement, take redundancy or just leave. Many of these were older people who may have had health issues or just the fear of catching Covid. Businesses considered older workers to be expensive and were happy to get them off the payroll.
In 2019, , according to a study conducted by Aviva, before Covid took hold, over 50% of the over 60s wanted to stay on at work, but many of them reported instances of overt ageism in the workplace. Another study found that while 50% of managers were aware of ageism in the workplace, only 10% could point to any measure that had been taken to counteract it. . So what happened was more the Great Clear Out rather than The Great Retirement. This period of 55-70 is a period when many people have offspring going through 3rd level education. The accommodation crisis means that the cost of housing a student for 8-9 months of the year is triple the academic costs. Parents speak of housing costs of 9-10, 000 euro a year for student accommodation. Difficult to find that sort of money on a pension.
The difficulty was, of course, that when these older people removed themselves from the workplace, they took with them skills acquired over a life time, talent, knowledge of how things work, experience, resilience and reliability.
To replace an older worker with a younger one earning 28-30,000 euro a year is actually very expensive. Add to the recruitment costs, the training and time needed to prepare them for their role and it can come to 50, 000 euro per person. We see everyday examples of these shortages. In the airports, passport office, building sites, shops, restaurants, hotels, tech companies. Never in the history of the country has it been so easy to find a job. Keeping the candidate in the job is another challenge. It is estimated that the average time a young worker spends in a new job is 18 months. The reasons for moving on are a desire for change, better work environment, closer to home, better promotion and training opportunities, better pay , nicer colleagues or just a desire to try something new, an idea that the perfect job is out there. They seek recognition and fulfillment. And why not? Given that there are so many opportunities, why settle for a mediocre job when there are all sorts of opportunities out there.?
However, given the shortages of workers, might this not be the right time to quietly reconnect with those workers with those older workers and offer a pleasant package to encourage them to return to work, albeit for a limited time? Make the package appealing. Older workers may not be subservient, but they are, for the most part, good time keepers and reliable.
The government could do its bit by helping on the tax side. There is little point in returning to work if the financial payments ae eaten away by taxation. I would suggest that for the Autumn budget, there should be included a lower tax rate for those already on a pension who choose to come back to work to help businesses get through this transition period.