The Great Resignation: Why Do Many Quit Their Jobs During COVID-19?
When the pandemic started, it dragged many surprises along
with it. Still, the most unexpected turn of events was probably people quitting
their jobs en masse while the world was going through a global economic crisis
with unprecedented inflation rates, leading to “The Great Resignation”.
The term “Great Resignation” was pinned by the Texan
management professor Anthony Klotz last May, when he predicted that with the
world recovering from the aftershock of the pandemic, workers might not be so
thrilled to go back to the way things were before.
With many people forced to work from home due to lockdowns,
they could finally spend more quality time with their families and less time
under stress. Nevertheless, few economists took Klotz’s foresight seriously; after
all, during the early months of the pandemic, millions of workers were laid off
across the globe, while others had their wages cut significantly, and hiring
freeze took hold of most industries.
This grim state was expected to continue for the year, but
what economists failed to see was that many people over 50 did not feel like
going back to a job where they could get infected with a virus disproportionately
killing people of their age group. Armed with stimulus checks and tax refunds,
baby boomers decided it was time for early retirement. This unforeseen
escalation created enough job openings to make people feel comfortable
quitting, especially mid-career employees in the tech and healthcare industries.
Last April, more people quit their jobs in the United States
than any other time in recorded history, and the numbers have only been growing
since, stopping at 210,000 new job openings for November alone. In a recent
study run by the job search site Joblist on 26,000 employees, 22% of the
respondents recorded quitting their previous jobs, with 73% thinking of leaving
their current positions.
This phenomenon of mass resignation is not limited to the
U.S., and other developed countries face a similar problem. In Germany, 400,000
new skilled workers will be needed each year to fill the gap the last two years
created in the economy. As for less developed regions of the world, the reality
is even bleaker. For every six people, one lost his job in Latin America,
Vietnamese workers are leaving big cities for their ancestral villages, and
Chinese youth are losing interest in working for the country’s low-wage
Other than the early-retirement factor mentioned above, the
great resignation owes its existence to workers getting their long-awaited
chance of turning the imbalance in the labor market’s power dynamics to their
advantage. A commonly repeated complaint amongst resigned workers is companies
not providing work environments that support mental health. But mid-career tech
and healthcare workers quitting their jobs for better opportunities is probably
the great exodus’ main culprit. Meaning that most people quitting their jobs do
so because they can land better ones.
“It’s not just quitting for the sake of quitting; it’s
quitting to find better employment.”
Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford
No matter how prideful of a period the great resignation
might be for the average laborer living paycheck to paycheck, people will start
to run low on finances and will have to meet employers in the middle eventually.
Yet this process might take a while, thanks to the luxuries provided by advanced
economies, unlike low-wage and less privileged workers who will not be able to
pick and choose who they work for when to work, and from where.
In the meantime, experts predict that the current high levels
of resignation to continue into 2022. We might even see work organizations move
away from one-fits-all structures and adopt more fluid and individual-based