The Great Resignation takes root around the world


“The great resignation is people saying, ‘Whatever the situation, I want better,'” Patrecia Ming Buckley told CNN Business. The 35-year-old, based in Sydney, made the decision to quit her job at consultancy firm EY last August.

A December survey by job site Indeed of around 1,000 workers in Singapore found that almost half of respondents were unsure if they would stay in their current job for the next six months. Almost a quarter intended to leave their employer in the first half of this year. LinkedIn data for January showed a notable increase in the number of workers changing sectors in Spain, the Netherlands and Italy compared to the start of 2021.

And in a study of workers commissioned by messaging company Slack, which covers Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Japan and France, the openness in search of a new employment has increased every quarter since June.

“It’s this recalibration that people have had when they rethink the role of work in their lives,” said Brian Elliott, senior vice president at Slack who leads the Future Forum initiative. “They’re rethinking – not just in terms of pay – but also, clearly, things like flexibility, purpose, balance.”

Where is the wave?

Anthony Klotz, a professor of business administration at Texas A&M University, who is credited with coining the phrase “The Great Resignation,” trends identified end of 2020 which he believes could catalyze a transformation of the US labor market.

There was a backlog of people who wanted to quit their jobs, as people largely stayed put during the initial phase of the pandemic. Reports of burnout were widespread. People asked great questions about the purpose of life as they sat on great piles of savings. And there was a risk of friction as those who worked remotely and now prioritized flexibility were called back into the office.

The theory was right: In 2021, 47.8 million workers in the United States quit their jobs voluntarily, the highest number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking full-year data in 2001. The number of quits remained high in January and February of this year.

In some cases, people left the labor market to care for children or elderly parents. Labor shortages in sectors like retail and hospitality have boosted labor demand, encouraging people to take advantage of a competitive market for a job with better benefits or salary. Office workers, tired of long pandemic hours and Zoom meetings, began to decide they’d had enough.

“I was wearing way too many hats for one person,” said Bobbi Conclin, who quit her job in buying and sales at Cintas last month. The 25-year-old, who is based in New Jersey, said she was exhausted from 10-12 hour workdays and started a new role at an e-commerce company a few days later. late.

The factors identified by Klotz are not exclusive to the United States. But there has been heated debate over whether the big quit has arrived in other labor markets.

Morning commuters in Singapore's business district in February 2022.

“We are seeing a ‘big reshuffle’ rather than a ‘big step down,'” Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, said in a speech last month.

In a Facebook post earlier this year, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower said that despite “speculation that Singapore could see a similar wave of ‘big quits'”, its “statistics show otherwise”. . The country’s quit rate was 1.7% at the end of last year, slightly below pre-Covid levels. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde underline than EU countries don’t “live anything like The Great Resignation”.
In Europe, many governments have widely used partial unemployment programs, which has prompted struggling companies to retain tens of millions of employees but cut their working hours. The state then subsidized part of their salary. This differed from the approach in the United States, where workers received benefits after being laid off or received stimulus checks in the mail that inflated their savings regardless of their employment status – and may have helped reduce the staff turnover.

“Throughout Europe, for the most part, people stayed with the employers they had,” said Guillaume Menuet, head of investment strategy and economics for Europe, the Middle East. and Africa at Citi Private Bank.

But there have been signs of churn. In France, the number of resignations during the third quarter of 2021, the latest data available, is the highest of records dating back to 2007.

australian government said last month that one million workers started new roles in the three months to November 2021. The job switching rate is nearly 10% higher than the pre-pandemic average.

And in the UK, the rate of employed people aged 16-64 moving between jobs reached a record high of 3.2% between October and December.

Yet Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, thinks claims that the Great Resignation has crossed the Atlantic are exaggerated, noting that this rate is only slightly higher than it was in the early 2000s.

discontent grows

It’s clear that Americans aren’t alone in thinking differently about work.

Joan Pons Laplana, a 47-year-old man in Sheffield, England, quit her job as a senior nurse at the National Health Service almost a year ago. He now works as a teacher, training people from disadvantaged backgrounds so they can find jobs in the NHS.

Laplana said he felt guilty leaving a profession he loved at a time when hospitals were facing a huge shortage of resources. But when he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after working in intensive care during the first two waves of Covid, he knew it was a decision he had to make to preserve his sanity.

Joan Pons Laplana, who lives in Sheffield, England, quit her job as a senior nurse at the National Health Service in April 2021.

“The idea of ​​your mortality — that you might be next — was very present,” he said. On top of that, he was often the only person caring for dying patients and communicating with their grieving families. “Day to day, it took its toll.”

Thibault Prat, a 28-year-old man in Paris, France, gave his notice and quit his job buying and selling electricity in May after nearly five years. He said he worked long hours, especially as the price of electricity soared.

He also grew frustrated with not producing anything in his job and unwilling to insert numbers into Excel spreadsheets as the company grappled with issues such as the pandemic and the climate crisis.

“There was a growing gap between my beliefs and my work that I could no longer live with,” he said.

Prat said he plans to take a few months off before seeking employment in another industry sector, such as the nuclear sector.

Worker polls indicate that Prat will not be alone in weighing his options. The Future Forum report released in January found that 53% of workers in France and 55% in Germany and Japan are ready to look for a new job next year. This number rises to 64% in Australia and 60% in the UK.

Change on the horizon?

This drive to seek out new opportunities comes as job vacancies remain high and employers in a number of industries are willing to pay more to recruit workers. In the UK, where Brexit-related labor market reform is also underway, there are now 4.4 vacancies per 100 jobs, an all-time high.

“With such a shortage of talent in the UK at the moment, people are quite confident and ready to change jobs,” said Mark Cahill, managing director for UK and Ireland at the recruitment firm. ManpowerGroup.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower also said it was preparing for more resignations in the coming months.

“In industries where jobs are lower paying, people might leave because of better opportunities. In growing industries with high labor demand, hiring and quitting rates are likely to be higher “, said the agency in January.

In Australia, the government said workers who changed jobs typically received wage increases of between 8% and 10%.

Mariano Mamertino, senior economist for Europe, Middle East and Africa at LinkedIn, said the labor market in Europe is also expected to strengthen this year, which could give more people the opportunity to change their career. role. Around 58% of Europeans say they plan to change jobs this year, according to a LinkedIn survey of around 9,000 workers – although it was completed before Russia invaded Ukraine, which , according to economists, could plunge the region into a recession.

Commuters wait on the platform of Auber RER station in the financial district of Paris in January 2022.

“When the job market gets really tight, it’s when there are more opportunities available,” Mamertino said.

In professions like nursing, in particular, there are signs that burnout is reaching unsustainable levels. A investigation of more than 9,500 nurses by the UK’s Royal College of Nursing released late last year found that 57% of those surveyed were considering quitting their job or actively planning to leave. The main reasons given were the feeling of being undervalued and the feeling of exhaustion.

Ming Buckley, the Sydney-based worker who left EY – one of the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms – said mental health also played a big part in her decision to leave.

“I just started to feel like I was part of a big machine,” she said. “I never saw myself as someone who would be part of the race to move up the corporate ladder.”

She took a few months off and recently started interviewing. This time, she’s looking for a part-time position with a nonprofit — something that more closely aligns with her values ​​and will allow her to start a coaching and mentoring business on the side. It’s an epiphany – aided by the pandemic.

“I don’t think people ever woke up and were very unhappy with their jobs,” Ming Buckley said. “I think it’s been building for years and years and years.”


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