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COLUMN: Kardashian is wrong about the current workforce

“It seems like nobody wants to work these days,” she said in an interview
Kim Kardashian attends the CFDA Fashion Awards at the American Museum of Natural History on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Friday, March 1, is Employee Appreciation Day, a time meant for employers to recognize the people who work for them.

Or the day could be a time to echo the words of American media personality Kim Kardashian, who believes job vacancies are the result of a poor work ethic.

“It seems like nobody wants to work these days,” she said in a 2022 interview. “You have to surround yourself with people that want to work.”

It’s a tone-deaf comment, especially in recent years as employers are struggling with a low unemployment rate. It also comes across as whining.

Help Wanted signs are commonplace and some businesses have had to cut back on services or reduce hours because of the challenges in finding staff.

Kardashian’s response is quick and easy, but it’s also simplistic. People echoing this thought likely have not considered some important statistics.

In January 2024, there were 20,362,000 people at work in Canada. The unemployment rate was 5.7 per cent. The percentage shows there are a limited number of people available to work.

In previous years, there have been times when the unemployment rate was in the double digits, and during the Great Depression in the 1930s, it topped 19 per cent.

Why is today’s unemployment rate so much lower than in the past? A look at the number of births in previous years can provide a little background.

Someone born in 1937 – let’s call him William – would have had plenty of job opportunities. That year, Canada recorded 227,575 births, the lowest on record since 1926. The number of births in Canada was low for most years of the Great Depression.

By the time William would have been ready to enter the workforce in the second half of the 1950s, the economy had rebounded. He would have started working during the height of the Baby Boom years. The Canadian population was growing rapidly at that time, and workers were needed to build schools, hospitals and other facilities.

It wouldn’t have been as easy for William’s son, Kenneth, born in 1959. That year, Canada recorded 479,275 births, the highest in the country’s history. The high birth rate was noticeable in the mid-1950s and dropped noticeably beginning in 1964 and 1965.

When Kenneth would have started working, a lot of applicants were seeking a limited number of jobs. The economic downturn in the early 1980s added another challenge for those in his age bracket.

The birth rate has been much more moderate than during the Baby Boom era. Since 1966, there have been just two years when Canada recorded more than 400,000 births in a single year. Most years, the numbers have been much lower.

And now, the youngest members of the Baby Boomer generation are nearing retirement age.

The result is a shrinking workforce. More people are retiring than entering the workforce, and this presents challenges for employers.

It’s possible to parrot Kardashian and others who suggest job vacancies exist because nobody wants to work, but such comments do nothing to respond to the challenges of a shrinking workforce.

What’s more, those who complain about people not wanting to work are unlikely to get many responses when they post a job vacancy.

It would make more sense to listen to Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers,” he said.

Valuing one’s employees won’t change demographic trends, but it’s a much healthier approach than complaining that people no longer want to work.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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