It seems that many Americans have lost the work ethic that we used to be famous for. Americans have also lost the doctrine of vocation, which gives work of all kinds meaning, value, and spiritual significance.
Last year we blogged about what was being called “The Great Resignation,” the phenomenon of people quitting their jobs and not returning to the workplace. Much of that was a response to the COVID epidemic, with the lockdowns giving people a taste for not going to work and the government relief payments (including unemployment benefit supplements that paid many workers more for doing nothing than they were earning on their jobs) making that, at least for awhile, financially possible.
But now, most of those who voluntarily left the workplace back then still have not come back. The workplace participation numbers are essentially the same as they were back in August of 2020. This, even though pay has shot up, as companies are growing desperate for workers. The labor shortage is throwing off the economy, but it also bodes ill for those who are cultivating idleness and for the culture as a whole.
So says an article by By The Underside of the ‘Great Resignation’.in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall) entitled
In 2000, the labor force participation rate–which includes everyone in the population, including the retired and unable to work– reached a high mark of 67%. Today, it is 61.9%, a drop of 5%, the same that it was last August. Among men in their prime working age, from 25 to 54, only 88.2% work. In 1961, the percentage was 96.9%. Put another way, among men between 25 and 54, the proportion of those who do not work for a living is 1 out of 8.
For women of the prime working age, the high point in 2000 was 77.3%, dropping to 75% today. The overall percentages are lower, since women often opt out of the workplace to have children and to take care of them, but the decline is also lower compared to men.
The work rate today is lower than it was during the Great Depression. Thirty years ago, according to the article, Americans had a 10% higher work rate than the European Union, but today Americans have fallen “a couple of points” behind the supposedly easy-going Europeans.