A demographic timebomb

  • Reading time:5 mins read

If you think it’s increasingly difficult to find staff for your organization, I’m afraid you ain’t seen nothing yet. Let me just tell you that the “ain’t seen nothing yet” has nothing to do with Bachman Turner Overdrive’s monster hit 39 years ago. But you will by now have guessed that I’m no longer a teenager.trebel_clef

So to the timebomb which refers to the shortage of labour and how it threatens the economies of countries around the world. Before talking about how bad it is in Thailand and also what you can do about it, let me share the example from China.

3601_abacus_charcoal_charcoalOfficial data from China showed that the working-age population defined as people 15-59 years old fell almost 4 million people in 2012. It’s the first time in 50 years that the labour pool has declined in China. And even though the contraction in 2012 appears to be small relative to China’s more than a billion people, the cumulative effects will accelerate over the next decades.

A Chinese government think-tank has reported that the number of people between 15 and 64 will drop by around 40 million people the next 15 years. The proportion of over-65-year-olds will double from over the next 25-26 years, a feat which took United States 69 years to complete. China’s one-child policy imposed over 40 years now, suddenly threatens to impact the country’s future growth.

Thailand will face the dilemma in 2025, just 12 years from now, according to research. However, looking at the prediction in the research, we now see that the time where more people leave the labour force than entering (i.e. contracting) is coming earlier than expected.10727_binoculars_web

With the prospect of fewer young Thai people in the labour market it means an increasing aging population. That in turn means a shortage of workers who can support a growing number of retirees. We all know how that will affect economic productivity and also strain the social security and pension systems. Forecasters predict that in Japan the labor force will decrease from 68 million down to 46 million, Italy’s from 23 to 14 million and in Germany the labor market goes from 41 million to 28 million over then next 30-40 years.

Stop here for a moment – it’s time ladies and gentlemen to act smarter than the other company on the other side of the street. Apple, Google, Starbucks and another 50 global brands might not find it very difficult to attract and convince candidates to join their organizations. They have such strong name recognition that it’s more seller’s market than buyer’s market. But the rest of us do not have that luxury of such high public visibility.885_alarm_clock_olive

You must develop an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) which clearly describes real needs and clarify job expectations. Here are just a few of the many questions that will help you on the way. They must be answered before you start any sourcing of new staff.

And let me warn you, it will take you the same amount of time, energy, and analysis that you put into your annual business plan and budget. There is no way you can develop the EVP between coffee breaks.

  • Why would someone who is good at this type of work want this particular job?
  • Why should anyone come and work for you?
  • What does this job offer that is unique or makes it most attractive to a potential candidate?
  • Why is doing this job at your company better than doing the same job at a competitor?
  • Why do people come to work at your company and why do they stay? Is it leading edge technology? Fast growth? Industry reputation? Work/life balance? How does it differentiate you from your primary competitors?
  • What is your competitive compensation and benefits plan? 12 or 13 months guaranteed pay, sign-on bonus, performance incentive, company car, medical cover, provident fund, for employee or for family too? Flex time, free parking at the office building?3629_apple_laptop_books2_red

Remember that applicants or candidates are a perishable commodity. It is the only “product” I know that can speak. They can say no to being “sold” to your organization. The better ones are quickly turned off by unresponsiveness which is interpreted as a lack of initiative or seriousness. Resumes may look like a pile of paperwork on your desk but they really are not. If you don’t act with a sense of urgency and are prepared with an intelligent EVP when meeting future employees the contraction in the labour force will hit you hard and before your competitor.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.