Spotlight on the “Great Resignation”

In the last two years, a phenomenon has shaken up the world of work in the United States: The Great Resignation. This trend, which is much smaller in Quebec, is reflected by waves of departures and career changes.  


Coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor at University College London School of Management, the term “Great Resignation” is used to describe the phenomenon of mass resignation of employees. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021 –  an unprecedented phenomenon.


In Canada, a study carried out by the audit firm KPMG reveals that the rate of voluntary staff turnover in the Canadian financial services sector is 9%, 9.9% in professional services, 10.5% in public services and 10.7% in the health care and services sector.


The [Market research] company Léger devoted an entire report to the issue. Their recent study, The Human Reality: Rethinking HR during the Great Resignation, conducted among 3008 people who are in the labour market, or who will soon enter or re-enter it, concludes that 43% of workers are currently looking for another job, and 28% have already changed jobs in the past 24 months.


According to the report, negative occupational health events – particularly with regard to burnout and work-life balance – “have an impact on overall quality of life,  which is closely related to the likelihood of turning to new possibilities.”


A phenomenon more marked among young people 

The survey reveals that young people are much more likely to leave their jobs than older generations: 57% of the active population aged 18 to 34 say they are dissatisfied, whatever the quality of life. These young people are often disappointed by the lack of opportunities for career advancement and the relevance of their jobs to their training.

“Even if younger workers earn less, better wages are not the main reason they want to change jobs in the next two years (as was the case for those aged 35 and over),” according to the report. “Respondents aged 18 to 34 want to work in the career they studied for, and be offered opportunities for growth and advancement…”

To many economists, this wave of resignations and career changes is not responsible for the lack of man-power that’s hitting Canada at the moment. The most likely hypothesis would rather be the lack of people to replace those aged 55 and over who are retiring en masse.  With more choices, people remaining in the labour market would then be less ready to accept poorly paid tasks or inflexible jobs. 


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