Brave New World
It turns out that when I moved to Calgary, it was a Brilliant Career Move. I mean not only did my previous employer basically fall into wreck and ruin, and not only did I move to a wide open town where a great deal of professionally interesting things were developing; mostly, I moved out of employment services. In Winnipeg, probably a little over half my job and most of my street cred involved scrounging up jobs for new arrivals. I had been trained at that in the white heat of the mid 80s recession, and was very good at it.
Basically, in today's terms, I was a buggy whip maker.
The labour shortage hereabouts is extraordinary and extreme. We have employers beating at our door, as we are one of the most reliable sources of by definition unemployed people looking for a job. Here in Calgary, you walk into a 7-11 or Safeway or pretty much any warehouse, you have hands on the ends of your arms and can minimally communicate, you have a job. You have only one hand on the end of an arm, you have limited English, well you still probably have a job.
I feel this particularly acutely myself, as an employer.
I have a staff of a little over 40, and could use another, I don't know, at least five if not ten. Can't find them. I pay better than most of my competitors, I offer humane conditions and decent benefits, as most of my competitors don't, and I still can't find them. Recently, I've taken to poaching, stealing staff from other employers. I haven't yet offered a signing bonus, but its getting pretty close. I've also had to hire people I really wasn't very enthusiastic about. Well, they had hands on the ends of their arms, what can I say?
Everything I hear from the demographers tells me this isn't going to change any time soon. its the whole 90s IT scram on an economy wide basis. I don't think we've thought through all the implications. Here are some of my guesses:
- I think traditionally low-paid, inherently un-automatable service jobs are going to start getting a whole heck of a lot more respect and pay.
- I think that we are going to start having to pay a good deal more for a lot of stuff, particularly anything labour intensive that can't be shipped off-shore.
- I think that the rising tide is finally going to start really lifting the working class boats-- higher service prices represent a significant wealth distribution downwards.
- I think that my sector is going to start being perceived as a lot more valuable to the Canadian economy than anytime since say 1904.
- I think that while this will be nice, I don't really care. If it was the right thing to do in 1987, it's the right thing to do now.