How can a mass die-off cause places to be short-staffed if there are also fewer people to serve?


Honest question. Not political, I just don’t understand.

Imagine there’s a town of 1k people and they all serve each other – hospital workers, food service, etc. Then all 1k people die. Now there is no shortage of nurses and restaurant staff because there’s no one using the hospital or restaurant.

Now I understand that isn’t exactly what happened when a million Americans died of Covid-19. And I suspect certain types of people died with higher frequency leaving particular industries with a shortage (ie those with public-facing essential workers.) But is it that hard to shift? Say all the grocery workers died and now there’s no one to buy furniture, and the furniture store goes out of business. Well, the furniture workers could go work at the grocery store.

Or is it more like, people who work in general died, and those who don’t work survived and still need services? Regardless of whether people can’t work (ie they’re disabiled) or won’t (ie their dad got them a non-working, high-paid “job” in management?)

Surely I’m missing something, I would just like to know what it is.

In: 3

Not a complete answer, but part of it has to do with a shift in what jobs people are doing. During the shut downs, people still needed to pay bills, buy groceries, etc. A lot of people found new ways to earn money. Whether that’s starting their own small businesses, doing piece work through work for hire sites, or even breaking into new industries entirely, a lot of workers simply left the industry they had been working in and not enough new people are wanting to fill in to replace them.

You have a flawed assumption that all the goods and services that a town provides needs to go back into the town. If a company built a furniture factory in a town, they wouldn’t expect that furniture to only be sold inside the town. That furniture gets shipped and sold elsewhere in the nation or internationally.

What die-offs do is make labor more valuable because the labor supply is lower.

Let’s say 1 out of 10 people have died in that town, evenly spread among all industries. The furniture factory has high pay and needs more bodies so they offer jobs to people who previously were paid less. People working in lower paid jobs can now demand higher pay from their current jobs or else they’ll jump to higher paying jobs.

Companies who can’t pay higher because of low margins or poor management will end up short staffed. Nobody wants to work anymore **for shitty pay**.

During natural disasters there is something called the “Harvesting Effect” – which basically says that most deaths from a natural disaster occur among people who were pretty close to dying anyways.

For example, heatwaves kill vast numbers of very old but “healthy” people who are basically bedridden. Those people can’t get or ask for water for themselves and their caregivers either don’t understand how much more water they need during the heatwave or aren’t around 24/7. That leads to those people dying from heatstroke and being counted as a heatwave death. But the reality is that they were all pretty likely to die from other causes at some point during the next few months, its just the heatwave that actually got them.

COVID saw the exact same effect – nearly everyone who died from COVID was in a health situation where they were likely to die at some point in the near future. That doesn’t mean everyone who died was like that, just that legitimately healthy people were the very rare exception.

What this means is that there weren’t actually many excess deaths from COVID above what would normally happen in any given year – the deaths just occurred a bit earlier than they otherwise would have.

The current labor shortage has nothing to do with that and is being caused by a catch up effect of the economy shutting down. There was a lot of work that needed to be performed during the shutdown that didn’t get performed, creating a giant backlog in every industry. People are now rushing to try to get 2 missed years worth of work done in addition to what normally needs to be done every year and there aren’t enough people around to do that.

Rich people don’t die as easy compared to poor people that have less money to pay for health.

This means, when any plague hits, it will hit the bottom workforce but not the high consumers.

So the factory stays open as the demand is still there, but there are less workers so the factory has to outcompete the other factories to retain enough workers.

This creates higher salaries.

The rich have to spend more for products and get less rich.

This decreases the demand and therefore rebalances the system.