We doubt that our clients want another video of the queues at Dover, so decided to show them they are not alone.
Delays in Dover are at their worst for over 2 years, with UK airports and railway services not far behind. There are a myriad of causes, from P&O, to the weather, to trains cracking up (literally) or cancellations due to engineering works.
This is all happening at a busy time and the immediate reasons are unhelpful but there is also a deeper cause, which stretches beyond transport.
The hospitality sector is struggling for staff, as is the construction industry, healthcare, care providers and others. When British Airways, Easy Jet and rail companies blame staff shortages for their problems, they are not alone.
There are suggestions of corporate over-optimism, or poor planning adding to issues but across varied sectors, the staff shortage is genuine.
Post Pandemic Employment
Fears of high unemployment when government pandemic support was withdrawn have failed to materialise. There are an estimated 1.2 million vacancies, with around the same number of people actively looking for employment.
Life is not easy for everyone, issues ranging from the cost, or lack of availability of childcare, to outdated skills can make finding a job difficult. The core reason for staff shortages is still a shrinking workforce.
Brexit has been blamed and is responsible for around a third of the labour market shortfall. Covid coming at the same time encouraged a return to countries of origin and had a notable effect on UK workers.
Far more people have become economically inactive, around 400,000 according to the ONS. They are mainly older, whilst young people have chosen to stay in full time education, rather than follow a work based route.
Beyond impacting on decisions, Covid has had and is having a direct effect. The number of people unable to work due to Long Covid is substantial.
Is There An Answer
In truth, probably no single answer. The government has increased investment in jobcentre staff and training, although far more is needed. Amidst headline causes such as Brexit and Covid, the skills match problem is underplayed.
Persuading the economically inactive to return to the job market would help. A fair number of early retirees may be interested, along with others, if the remuneration and terms of employment were suitable.
Offering older recruits hybrid working, with part of the week at home may assist and if run well, does not need to damage productivity. For younger applicants, the belief in a long term future rather than just a job matters.
Building The Future
Swapping roles may not help too much, many people who decided to become lorry drivers solved a problem but just left a vacancy behind them. They did at least upskill in most cases and this is a positive.
History tells us that the best way out of a malaise is to drive new growth. We are not alone in thinking this, as recent growth in ATA carnets shows, with a number of holders using them to help to build trade.
That was always part of the intention of the ATA carnet system and more incentives need to be created by government to aid prosperity. Training will help with the labour market but solutions only lie in a thriving economy.
We should also accept that in the medium term, overseas workers will be needed to make this happen. This includes a skillbase in the EU, which once again needs to feel they are welcome, as people from other nations do.
Alongside others, the freight sector has worked hard over recent years and showed a fair degree of imagination in solving problems. The same ethos within national policy making could bring solutions to staff shortages and more.