The 2021 labor market surprised economists. Exponential job growth after 2020’s precipitous decline promised an economic boom hitherto unseen since the post-war era. In this employment oasis, one would expect laborers to apply for jobs with rapacious interest. Sadly, this didn’t happen. Few workers returned to their former employment. Many retired. And a declining birth rate in the United States since 1990 ensured that fewer “young Americans” even exist to succeed their parents in the workforce.
Causality, like many things, is multifaceted. The reasons why Americans eschew employment are many, and too complex to consider here. But most economists agree something is afoul. True, one finds little sympathy when he gripes that his favorite pub closes early due to a dearth of staff. The average family might have to readjust its schedule to buy groceries on time, but no reasonable person considers this a “crisis.” But for the cancer patient, or the person who suffers severe orthopedic pain, the situation is dire. A lack of hospital staff means that individuals seeking so-called “elective care” or “non-essential care” must wait weeks, if not months, to ameliorate their pain. The situation is so severe that the Rhode Island Department of Health has authorized COVID-positive nurses and doctors to return to work early against the prescribed isolation time-line.
This labor crisis needs a solution, and fast. Policies which promote financial incentive to remain unemployed threaten the common good. A largely unemployed citizenry risks increasing mental illness, crime, and moral corruption. As the saying goes, idleness is the devil’s playground. Society requires work in order to flourish. Americans must return to their jobs or find new ones; and the government must incentivize them to do so.
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