V shaped lies
I started writing this post in April 2021 when there was a huge number of people pushing the "V shaped recovery" narrative. Half a year later the V shaped recovery hasn't eventuated for the broader public so the specific phrase "V shaped recovery" is being used less but there are new narratives along the same lines being pushed. The only sort of "recovery" if one can even call it that is a "K shaped" recovery where only a very narrow group has ended up better off while the same old decline continues for everyone else.
Since 2020 a lot of things have happened more broadly but also in my life, if you are a regular reader of this blog you'll notice I haven't been writing a lot lately. One of the things I was dealing with for the majority of 2020 was the huge drop off in contract work, because I had less work I had a lot more time to write compared to usual. Also in the interim I started helping a friend build a small house and got involved in a few other projects. I spent a ton of time lining up work on high value tech contracts that could make companies a lot of money, but almost nothing ended up going ahead, the house was built before I got solid work lined up again (I think I understand why a lot better now, a topic for a future article). As someone who was heavily involved in the in-person workshop events space (from running on-site training courses) the pandemic massively changed the nature of the work I was doing. Some people have decided to take work remote but some work simply cannot be effectively brought online without major changes and some work can't be done remotely at all. So I realized that the in person workshop space wouldn't be coming back any time soon and I had to pivot the work I'm doing. Thankfully because I was teaching as a result of being skilled in software development and software management I had the very easy option to change my work back to doing that as an internally employed practitioner rather than an external consultant.
But really with everything that's been going on I'm lucky to be in tech, people in other industries have not fared anywhere near as well. My friends in the events space have been doing it exceptionally tough.
Before this last round of lockdowns I met up with an old friend of mine Issac who had made an exceptionally good career for himself from just working really fucking hard in the events space. Since last year he hasn't been getting much work, and this is absolutely no fault of his own, live events have been doing badly since the pandemic. He's the sort of hard working guy that I admire and it's really painful to see him underemployed when I know just how much he is capable of. Unfortunately this sort of story is increasingly common though.
What did strike me from this conversation, and just about every conversation I have had recently with anyone connected with recruitment (either as someone looking for work or looking to hire people) is that there are sectors of the economy that are in far worse shape than anyone is willing to publicly admit. I get why there's a narrative of "everything will be OK", putting the head in the sand and hoping for the best is the easy way out. However this narrative makes it so much worse for anyone who is actually struggling to get work. When you are getting lied to constantly about how "good" the economy is doing it is so much harder to deal with being unemployed or underemployed. This can easily lead to questions like "if things are so good what am I doing wrong?" these sorts of doubts can really badly impact people and it's tragic to hear this sort of thinking when really things just aren't any good.
If you are struggling just know you aren't alone. The economy is in a pretty shit state right now. If you are struggling to find work or are underemployed this is likely a large part of why.
A lot of people are out of work right now. Some extremely "creative" accounting has been used lately to try to explain why unemployment is not as bad as it seems. But the reality "on the ground" is pretty obvious to anyone who's actually looking, unemployment is high right now. This is why wages are finding some pretty extreme downwards pressure, people are desperate to get income, any income. If the narrative about there being labor shortages was true at all then you'd see wages go up rather strongly but yet this isn't happening.
Basically I think a lot of the narrative of a "V shaped recovery" is just deliberate gaslighting by people with vested interests and/or outright delusion and I'm just fed up with it. I'm fed up with it mostly because I see how this narrative is hurting so many hard working people, things are already difficult and telling people that everything is great just doesn't help those who are suffering. This has the very unfortunate outcome of people taking things personally that really have nothing to do with them as individuals. I've heard many people in many industries express self doubts about their abilities as a result of having difficulty finding work, with comments such as "if there's such a labor shortage I must be doing something wrong to be out of work". There is no labor shortage in the ways that people are talking about, but more about that in another article. Also constantly telling people that everything is great when it is obviously not starts to erode societal trust. We are at a point in time where the social contract is under extreme strain and if the common knowledge starts to shift to a point where everyone just expects to hear lies about the state of the economy that would be an incredibly dangerous and damaging shift to occur. There's a lot of reasons why we need to be rebuilding trust in each other and in our institutions and these sorts of widespread bullshit narratives really get in the way of building that trust.
Yes I do think the economy will recover eventually, but this won't happen magically overnight. Many people were saying that once a reopening from covid was in place the economy would rebound in a very short time. In Australia we effectively had that reopening for the most part across the entire country in late 2020 when Melbourne came out of the brutal second lockdown but the economy didn't just magically bounce back to pre-pandemic strength. The global situation being what it is represents a major impediment to a fast economic recovery here, especially when you consider the economic dependency Australia has on foreign supply chains that are currently disrupted1. On top of this many of the economic issues, for example the repo market crisis, we were facing started long before the pandemic and have yet to be resolved. On top of this real long term damage was done from the pandemic too and I am optimistic we will recover and things will be better eventually, but it won't be tomorrow. If you are doing it tough please don't take it personally and try to hang in there, you are not alone.
A huge part of the Australian economy is involved in the export of natural resources and commodities, if international demand is low this will hurt the Australian economy. ↩