One Reason Why People Might Be Slow to Return to Work

Over the last few weeks, an entire subgenre of punditry has arisen which argues about why people are reluctant to return to work. One reason I’ve seen neglected is that many people don’t need to do so. I don’t mean this in terms of the conservative argument about increased unemployment benefits encouraging people to stay jobless.

I suspect a fair number of people during the pandemic learned they could survive without work for a while. Part of that is psychological: there are a lot of people who believe if they’re able to work, they should. That belief has been sorely tested, given how poorly many workers have been treated during the pandemic. But there’s another factor–many people learned they can get by, maybe not well, but get by with partial work (or no work at all) for an extended period of time. Ultimately, they will have to land on their feet and recover their earnings–and the expiration of various eviction moratoriums won’t help. But I think for some, there’s less ‘fear of falling’ than there was before since many people–though not all–figured out how to survive falling (and, of course, many workers didn’t have that far to fall to begin with).

Put another way, when someone says they’re holding out for a better job and/or wages, they’re also saying they don’t face immediate financial pressure to find paying work. That’s a coping mechanism that will shift power to workers, at least a little.

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2 Responses to One Reason Why People Might Be Slow to Return to Work

  1. of the 600,000+ people who died of covid, a disproportionate number were essential workers, others died of opioid over dose, others died of suicide. they are not coming back because they are dead.

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