Short staff? Give them more work
Covid Kim has had some really strange responses to what is being described as a labor shortage. Responses range from cutting unemployment insurance early in an attempt to force desperate people to take any job, offering a huge $1,000 to $2,000 bonus to teachers and now increasing the number of children that a child care professional can watch at a time.
One of the oft-cited reasons women of childbearing age have been slow to return to the workforce during the pandemic is that affordable and reliable childcare is a hard-to-find commodity in the world. Iowa.
Childcare is a notoriously low paying industry. In such a situation, working on legislation to raise wages at least to a living wage would be one of the first starting points. Workers in this field should also enjoy benefits like workers in other industries. The first four years of a child’s life are when they learn the most about what they need to succeed in life. Those who work with them should be paid accordingly.
Not in Republican-dominated Iowa. Raising wages or benefits in this state seems like condoning theft. The Iowa legislature’s response is to increase the workload. The increase in salary will most likely depend on the individual workplace. Child to provider ratios will increase from 6 to 1 to 2 years old to 7 to 1 to 2 years old. For the age of three, the ratio will increase from 8 to 1 to 10 to 1.
If that wasn’t enough to make mothers shiver at the thought of leaving their toddlers with caregivers, add in allowing 16-year-olds to be caregivers without supervision. Taking care of children is not a simple task. Handling more than a couple of two-year-olds at a time often requires physical and mental agility.
Remember, children are our most precious commodity. The current ratio of 6 to 1 for two-year-olds for a day longer than 8 hours seems very demanding. Add another and it looks like a deal breaker. Add unsupervised 16 year olds and most moms would say “NO”.
I think we could knowingly assume that those proposing this increase are most likely well removed from the child care field. They can have children, but don’t have to care for them for long periods of time with multiple children at once.
Back last summer in another backlogged attempt to force Iowans into the workforce. Corporate government Kim Reynolds cut extra help the unemployed were getting from the federal government. The concept here would be that if people starve, they will take any job. Getting an extra $300 a week allowed the unemployed to live like royalty, I suppose.
According to this logic, the workers should have returned en masse. But they didn’t. People weren’t coming back for fear of being infected with covid, lack of childcare, or aversion to certain types of jobs. Nothing has been done about these issues. Starving them was the strategy.
More recently, Iowa, like many other states, has been hit by a mass exodus of teachers. The main reasons are again fear of Covid as masking is relaxed – largely removed in fact – lack of access to childcare and overwork as planning periods are now consumed like pennies -sailors when other teachers call in sick or quit.
Corporate Kim’s answer? A meager bonus of $1,000 or $2,000. The Legislature joined in increasing school appropriations by a meager 2.5% that could well be consumed by gasoline for school buses next year. There will be little or no money for teacher raises or for that matter supplies. Add to that the insane battles over books and curricula (CRTs) and it’s no wonder young college-educated teachers are looking to quit teaching and often leave Iowa.
Seems like Reynolds and the Republicans’ approach to solving the problems is the old cartoon line from the ad that “the beatings will continue until attitudes improve.”
Colin Gordon of Common Good Iowa had a great op-ed discussing the state unemployment insurance cut last summer in the Des Moines Register. I recommend reading the full editorial. Among other things, Gordon said:
“At the end of 2020, the agency started collecting benefits already paid to thousands of workers. In July 2021, he suddenly cut short Iowa’s participation in extended federal unemployment benefit programs. At the end of October, he significantly tightened job search requirements imposed on unemployed Iowans. Cut unemployment benefits and make them harder to get, by this logic, and those who live big on $400.00/week (the average weekly unemployment benefit in Iowa) will come back to the job market in droves. work.
There are fundamental flaws in this reasoning. First, Iowa Workforce Development does not seem to understand (or at least accept) the reality of “frictional” unemployment – that an economy can have both job openings and job seekers. Instead, he assumes that workers in Iowa are completely fungible; that an unemployed carpenter in Cedar Rapids can (and should) take a night shift at a gas station in Council Bluffs.
Second, he continues to traffic in false Dickensian assumptions that state aid discourages work. The decision to cut extended federal benefits in July has not galvanized the state’s economy – indeed, states that joined Iowa in this strategy have experienced slowing economic growth than the rest of the country.
The reason is not hard to discern: the vast majority of Iowa’s “missing workers” have completely left the labor market. They (including many women) do not receive unemployment benefits. Their “deterrent” to work is not the generosity of public benefits. This is a salary structure based on minimum wage which has not moved for 13 years. It is an occupational health and safety regulatory regime that put workers at risk and immunize their employers. It’s unequal access to paid time off that, for many Iowa workers, makes “work-life balance” impossible to achieve.
Iowa Workforce Development seems determined to administer our unemployment benefits system not for the benefit of Iowa’s unemployed workers, but for the benefit of employers bemoaning a “shortage” of workers willing to employ. lousy jobs at lousy wages. This tilt is evident in the rollout, alongside the late October changes to unemployment insurance, of two new business incentive programs. Aimed at “advanced manufacturing,” these programs open up yet another trough of public money to well-heeled business interests and offer little to Iowa workers. The grants have no discernible targets for wages or job creation. They prohibit the use of subsidies to train workers. And they encourage spending on “specialized equipment for automation”.