Article Spotlight: Three Myths of the Great Resignation from The Atlantic
Every cultural revolution has a mythology all its own. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic shares three myths tied to the great resignation summarized below. See the full article here.
Myth 1: The Great Resignation is about quitting.
The air isn’t simply escaping the balloon. According to Thompson, “One problem with the term Great Resignation is that resignation sounds like a pure subtraction. If I told you, “My company suffered a great resignation last year,” you’d probably think that the company had lost a lot of workers. If I continued, “And the firm grew by 20 percent!” you might be very confused…But that’s what’s happening in the broader economy. The increase in quits is mostly about low-wage workers switching to better jobs in industries that are raising wages to grab new employees as fast as possible. From the quitter’s perspective, that’s a job hop. The low-wage service-sector economy is experiencing the equivalent of “free agency” in a professional sports league. That makes it more like the Big Switch than the Big Quit.”
Myth 2: The Great Resignation is about white-collar burnout.
Do you smell something burning? Not exactly, says Thompson. “Although burnout has remained steady or declined for most workers during the pandemic, according to Gallup polling, remote workers are significantly more likely to say they’re burned out now compared with before the pandemic. Because remote workers are a very white-collar group, this fact has led to a great deal of news coverage claiming that the Great Resignation—or whatever!—is being driven by white-collar professionals…But quits aren’t rising much in finance, real estate, or the broad information sector, which includes publishing, software, and internet companies. This year, quits for leisure and hospitality workers have increased four times faster than for the largest white-collar sector, which is professional and business services.”
Myth 3: The Great Resignation is a 2021 phenomenon.
Quitting isn’t quitting when it’s retiring. From Thompson, “The term Great Resignation was likely coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M, in May; at the time, he framed a mass exodus from the workforce as a prediction for this year. But since the bottom fell out of the economy in April 2020, the labor-force participation rate has increased for most groups—men and women, white and nonwhite. The biggest exception is older Americans, who by and large quit their jobs (and stayed quit) last year…For Americans over 65 without a disability, the participation rate is still down more than 10 percent since before the pandemic. This suggests that roughly one in 10 seniors left the labor force before we might have expected and didn’t come back. (Not surprising, because the pandemic poses a much higher risk of severe illness to older people.).”
Finally, according to the article, “The Great Resignation isn’t really about burnout. And it’s not really about what most people think of as resignations. To put it as concisely as possible: The Great Resignation is mostly a dynamic “free agency” period for low-income workers switching jobs to make more money, plus a moderate surge of early retirements in a pandemic.”
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