Where have all the workers gone? A recruiter’s guide!

June 6th, 2023 | Industry News

A recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has come up with four significant factors affecting UK recruitment. Entitled Where Have All The Workers Gone? it answer the question with some bleak facts.

First, economic inactivity (leaving the workforce) has grown by 565,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. Four factors contribute to this challenging statistic:

  1. Earlier retirement
  2. Increasing sickness
  3. Changes in migration
  4. Ageing UK population.

The biggest of these is earlier retirement. As anybody using recruiting software can confirm, the decline in the ‘older workforce’ seeking work is substantial. Several reasons are given for such people becoming economically inactive, such as:

  • lifestyle changes during COVID-19
  • increased savings during the same period, including furlough earnings
  • pension flexibility
  • caring responsibilities.

Recruitment Software

Recruiting in difficult times

Web-based recruitment software has an interesting role to play in this exploration. It engages potential employees who are aiming to work from home, or who are not committed enough to economic activity to be willing to engage in more active recruitment processes like job-fairs, visiting consultancies or sending out CVs. In this way it taps a proportion of the workforce unavailable to any other recruitment process. However, given that ageing has been driving down labour supply since before the pandemic, it’s important to understand why this ageing effect is being reinforced, rather than reduced by other factors.

Recruitment database software reveals that the fourth reason for leaving the workforce – caring responsibilities – is impacting not just those aged 50 and above, but also young parents.

Why can’t you recruit younger staff?

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says that UK parents, on average, have to devote a third of their wages to childcare. This is one reason that many older people are leaving the workforce – to become more involved in looking after grandchildren, and is also keeping many parents of young children out of the workplace.

In the spring budget the government announced new support: 30 more hours of free childcare a week for parents children aged one to two, extra funding for the current free childcare for 3-year-olds, and higher hourly pay for childcare providers. However, none of this kicks in until 2024. Some companies are filling the gap with childcare voucher payments, flexible time off for emergency child-care, and even onsite creches. But only 5% of UK companies contribute in this way and while those could definitely boost their recruitment by highlighting such offerings on social media or a website for recruitment, companies need to be thinking about how they help older workers support grandchildren as well as focusing on young parents themselves.


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