Where have all the people gone?

Why are businesses moaning there aren’t enough people to fill their vacancies? Are employers looking in the wrong places or have people suddenly all disappeared? Peter Crush investigates.

by Peter Crush
Where have all the people gone?
Where have all the people gone?

On the face it, the employment situation in the UK is the very definition of equilibrium – there are 1.2m vacancies and 1.5m job hunters competing for them. That means that, in theory, even the pickiest employer has a 300,000 surplus to play with. So why do so many companies constantly complain that there just isn’t the talent out there?

“This is by no means an easy answer,” says Elisa Nardi, career development expert and CEO of Notebook Mentor, but there is basic economic data that can’t be argued with. “The UK saw 1.3m foreign-born nationals return home during the pandemic [including 700,00 from London alone], while last year 85,000 new businesses were also formed – the highest level since 2011.”

Other alarming statistics need to be taken into consideration. The fact that 600 people quit work every day to care for loved ones – and that the number of over 65s in work fell 11% last year as many opted for early retirement – have also contributed to a situation where, according to data compiled by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the number of available workers in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 1997.

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