column | An extremely narrow job market offers golden opportunities

Staff shortage. There is almost no sector that does not suffer from it. It’s hard to find retail salespeople, security guards, healthcare workers, hospitality workers, teachers, computer engineers, and even spokespersons and recruiters. And that’s while we’ve just had two years of the pandemic. We are in the midst of the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. According to current economic theories, we should have been in a deep recession with rapidly rising unemployment.

Although the staff shortage in a few Western countries is as serious as in the Netherlands, it is also a problem in neighboring countries. The reason for the European Commission to intervene is the usual reaction. As in the 1960s and 1970s, the commission proposes hiring workers from countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. In fact, Brussels is also considering countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It would not be a bad solution only for the countries involved. The most educated, young and ambitious people will leave for Western Europe. Of course, this brain drain is disastrous for the economic strength of those same countries.

Nor is it a structural solution to our economy. There is a good chance that due to the aging population, we will have to get used to the permanent shortages in the labor market. The birth rate is declining rapidly all over the world. There will come a time when we will witness a population decline on a global scale, while simultaneously ageing. Less and less labor has to feed more and more mouths. This may be the scenario for centuries to come.

This requires a more creative approach than simply bringing here vital workforces from other countries. By taking a smarter approach, we can eventually find solutions to a number of problems in our economy that we also faced before the pandemic.

For example, labor productivity in the Netherlands has barely increased for years: in the past decade growth has been about 0.2 to 0.3 percent per year. While labor productivity has increased by more than 1 percent in the past ten years and by about 2 percent in previous years. Increasing labor productivity can partially reduce staff shortages. This requires additional investments in automation: in better machines, for example, more efficient software, and the development of smarter ways of providing services.

Wages must of course go up. It has been structurally very low for a long time. Even De Nederlandsche Bank and VVD have complained in recent years that too few of the companies’ high profits end up with workers. With the current tight job market, companies are finally forced to get better rewards.

Part-time: If you look at how many hours we all work, the Netherlands is at the bottom of the lists

Another problem: As a business owner, you can say out loud that you can’t find people, but you can also take a broader look at people who did not match 100 percent with the desired profile. Naturally, this also comes to stock photos that employers have been turning their noses at for a very long time. For example, people over 55 years old. or people who have a disability, a criminal record, a (partial) disability or who have gaps in their CV, for example due to burnout, a long trip around the world or motherhood. This crisis gives them the opportunity to return to the job market. This also applies to holders of residence and, for example, Ukrainian refugees. Relax the rules that are now often an obstacle to them and let them integrate into our labor market as quickly as possible.

As a headhunter in the top bracket, I have also encountered that Dutch employers are selective about the most demanding jobs, such as managers. In short: they are looking for someone who can actually do the trick. While many experienced people can and want to learn that trick required. And as a young man in his sixties, you can still perform a heavy position on the board.

Then he transferred all those part-time workers in the Netherlands. The number of people working is pretty high compared to the rest of the EU, but if you look at how many hours we all work, we’re at the bottom of the lists. The part-time culture has been around for a long time; One important reason, of course, is that schools in the Netherlands close in the afternoon between 1:30 and 30:30. Extend school hours to six hours as in France, including a hot meal. And starting next year, make nurseries and other childcare services free (almost).

And finally I would say: Employers, be careful with your employees. More absenteeism is now looming as stress in the workplace increases. Take this.

The current crisis in the labor market is an opportunity to address a whole range of problems that we have been struggling with for so long. But I’m afraid we’d opt for the easy solution anyway. Government, employers: Please do not fall into this trap.

Eileen Bellick Master hunter and propagandist.

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