News today: Australians are dropping out of the workforce at a never before seen rate.
All the stats and figures are quoted in the article - but really, you just need to look at some real life examples to know why. And, by coincidence, two people who have dropped out of the traditional workforce happen to live in this house.
Take my husband, Steve. He worked for twelve years for an enormous, global organisation, starting there when he left school and working his way up to management level. For most of that time, the work was challenging, the hours were long and he loved it - and then came a downturn in business, thousands retrenched, and his role became filling in for those who had gone. He was bored, but willing to stick it out. Until an opportunity came along, to work as a contractor doing something completely different.
The only certainty about his income was that it would fluctuate hugely from month to month, and he had to take a huge drop in pay to begin with. It was a risk.
There were two big upsides. Firstly, I was still in my corporate job and earning good money, so I could support us while we figured out if this change would work for us. Secondly, we were planning to start a family soon, and we could see that the hours of this new work would be much better suited.
Years later, and he's still doing that work and enjoying it. The income still fluctuates - as is the case for contracting work - but we've learned to manage it. The hours fluctuate too - one week we won't see him much, the next he'll be home lots, one week he might be working nights, the next days.
Mostly, his hours consist of starting early - before Abbey and I are even awake - and finishing early, which means he can spend afternoons with us. If he was still in his office job, he'd be lucky to see Abbey for an hour each evening.
So, while he's still in the workforce, leaving the traditional office environment meant a better family life for us.
Then there's me. Nine years with one organisation, starting at the bottom and working my way up to management level - and happy to stay there into the future. I worked full-time, studied at nights to be qualified for the field I worked in, and I enjoyed my work. Then I fell pregnant, went on maternity leave, returned to work when my baby was eight months old, ready to continue working life as usual - only to be told that full-time was the only option. No flexibility. I said, No way. Not yet.
I left with no idea where I was headed, but a strong determination that I had to find something that was a better fit with my family. Spending just an hour or two with my daughter each day wasn't right. After a long search, I realised that answer didn't lie in the corporate world - even their ideas of flexible work just weren't in the best interests of me seeing my daughter much at all.
Now, I'm a freelance writer - I write when it fits, which can mean on the days Steve is home early, or at nights and weekends. And as I build that up, the potential to earn a good income from it is looking positive.
I love writing; I also loved my corporate work. But I don't intend to ever go back to full-time or even rigid part-time hours in an office.
Traditional work couldn't - sorry, wouldn't - give me the chance to work and have what I believe to be a strong family life (or life in general).
Two very loyal, hard-working employees who were happy to stay with organisations long-term. Two people who were given no choice but to explore new opportunities. Two businesses who are losing out on not just us, but many other good workers due to their lack of foresight and flexibility.
Still wondering why people are leaving the workforce?