Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Our Persistent Efforts to Create a Labour Shortage

We've all been hearing the "labor shortage" stories for some time. For example, a recent report from "down under" advises us that "Our future is no longer one of abundant labour supply; quite the opposite. Business will need to work harder to attract and retain staff."

Why then are we not surprised to see the following report of a potential labour surplus in the UK? According to Andrew Taylor at FT.com (Financial Times) in an article entitled Unemployment of over-50s costs economy up to £31bn a year

"The government needs to do more to increase job opportunities for unemployed workers aged over 50 to prevent a loss of skills and experience costing the economy billions of pounds, a parliamentary report says today.

The study by the public accounts committee said there were insufficient data to determine whether the government's New Deal 50 Plus programme was working effectively."

Is this supply/demand inbalance due to geography? I think not. There is a perception afoot in the marketplace that the "over-50" workforce does not have the currently needed skills to get ahead today, or that they simply won't fit in organizations with a predominantly younger workforce. All the skills training in the world won't overcome prejudice and pre-formed perceptions.

It's ironic that the portion of the workforce now being overlooked has been statistically shown to be the most loyal, most willing to put up with slow advancement and most likely to show up and be productive even when the work environment is less than supportive. Labour shortage? It may be one of our own creation.

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