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Inside the Rapidly Growing ‘Antiwork’ Movement


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The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic was obviously going to have a profound impact on the ways in which we work— particularly due to the ongoing restrictions and quarantines that have been enacted over the past year and a half. As a result, the workforce of today looks a lot different than the work force of 2019. After many workers were laid off at the start of the pandemic, it was hard for businesses to build good grace with the work force again, and many former workers felt disposable and disrespected by the ways in which their employers handled the pressures of the pandemic.

As a result of this, we are facing an intense labor shortage today, the likes of which could have profound effects on the job market for years to come. The same job that was paying workers $8 dollars an hour only a few years ago, now must promise at least an $11 wage to even get workers through the door. Workers remember what it feels like to be abandoned by their employers, and it turns out that they also have a very good memory.

One of the more compelling effects of the pandemic and the subsequent labor shortage has been the rise of the ‘anti-work’ movement— a trend that has been bolstered by young Gen Zers who are intent on making their mark on the labor market. This movement seems to be the natural response to years of watching the middle class shrink, student debt grow, and good paying jobs evaporate. By the time that the pandemic hit, young people were already disillusioned by the entire illusion of work that had been passed on by our parents. Then, to make matters worse, the entire world watched as millions in the American workforce became unemployed— all while billionaires added $2.1 trillion to their collective wealth.

For many young people, it was hard to reconcile with a system that allowed for millions to face unemployment while billionaires (such as Jeff Bezos pictures above) continued to line their pockets. Photo thanks to CNBC.

So as the pandemic forced us all to move to the internet for socializing, the antiwork movement grew— spawning the subreddit r/antiwork, which has garnered over a million followers since 2013. Those involved in the movement felt dissatisfied and disrespected by their employers, and sought their own happiness over money. Many in the movement feel as though society as a whole has been tricked into prioritizing hard work and business over their own happiness and well being, and many are fed up with the system as a whole.

While the fate of the anti-work movement remains unclear, it is clear that the very existence of such a movement is indicative of something deeply rotten within the current workforce. Gone are the days when hard work guarantees financial stability and a comfortable life. If that was the case then workers wouldn’t feel so comfortable leaving the jobs which they’re in right now. As the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us, the workers of the 21st century seem to be treated as though they are disposable. And when workers begin to feel disposable then their natural instinct is to treat their employers the same way as well.

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