Today , I’m considering the various economic stats and business news that I have seen and tried to comprehend within the strictures of not being an economist but having some business experience.
We all know about inflation, we only have to look at our food bills. The same inflationary pressures are affecting every business, wage increases, goods and service costs rising, some at considerably higher rates than our domestic cost increases.
We hear that businesses are finding it difficult to fill vacancies, the observation – (a request from the CBI this week), was that the country needs to consider opening up more vacancies to overseas candidates. There are 0.5 million more on long term sickness than in 2019 which is now a total of 2.5 million who are not working due to long term sickness (source ONS) and our GDP fell last month.
I’m trying to work out how, despite economic pressures, there is a need for more employees, (admittedly these vacancies will be in particular sectors). This usually, is an indicator of a vibrant economy. All this to me, a relative layperson I find confusing.
To me, the world appears to be in confusion. Covid is still around, anecdotally I know more people who have had or have it than at the height of the pandemic. The after effects are very varied, some shrugging it off, some taking longer to fully recover and other where the effects appear to be permanent.
Taking workplaces as a specific example, employers and employees are trying to work out equable ways of working. Take for example employers who have insisted on a full time return to the office, some manage this despite employee resistance, (who knows the effect on employees), some employees refusing but reluctantly having to accept, with other employers and employees settling for a compromise. This is just one of the tensions. (I’m sure those who’s job requires them to be in a place of work, such as manufacturing, must wonder at all this). The positive is that there is now discussion on the benefits and the disadvantages of changed working practice.
As commented in previous Lead Articles in this newsletter, creating environments which enhance employee wellbeing is much higher up the employer agenda. This change in priority has happened very quickly, albeit that some workplaces who paid scant attention before have a greater understanding of how important it is for its people and for their business. There are of course many examples where it has been embedded in an employer’s culture for many years, sometimes decades.
There is also the feeling of loss with which most have experienced in some shape or form, loss of family and friends, loss of security, health, young people’s loss of socialising, traditional education and many other manifestations.
The last couple of years have been a whirlwind of experiences, not all of them by any means adverse and some being noticeably life enhancing. We all need to find our own bedrocks and build from there. We know in many cases this is not possible and has, and will cause difficulties with physical and mental health. It’s such a refreshing change knowing that there is, in most situations, no stigma about being open about personal mental health difficulties. However a lot more still needs to be done about creating a safe and secure culture where issues can be discussed without stigma and regretful consequences.
Although it feels as if we are being bounced around in new territory it’s important to remember that humanity is resilient and where allowed (within the context of a reasonably balanced and fair society), equable solutions can be found. Chaplains are a vital cog in this machinery, that is why are so committed in supporting and promoting chaplaincy in all its forms.
Alastair Ure Reid