This is an extract from the House of Commons Library website dated 10th January 2023, on current Skills and Labour shortages in the UK:
In September-November 2022, there were 1.19 million vacancies in the UK, similar to the number of unemployed people. Human health and social work had the highest number of vacancies. A key reason for labour shortages is that demand for labour has recovered faster than labour supply since the pandemic. Labour supply and employment are below pre-pandemic levels because of a rise in economic inactivity – people who are not in work and not looking for work. While the UK is not unique in experiencing shortages of materials and workers, commentators have noted that new immigration rules post-Brexit may have exacerbated the situation. There are different views on the extent to which Brexit-related factors are contributing to labour supply issues in the UK. The Bank of England reports that slowing population growth is partly responsible for a decreased labour supply, which has been driven by lower net migration from the EU.
It is with this report on labour shortages in mind that the words from Matthew’s Gospel resonate in my ears for this morning…. “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
These words from Matthew are a discipleship call – to be attentive to God yet deeply engaged with the world. It is a challenge to align ourselves with the ‘Heartbeat of God’ – a phrase used in a report to the World Council of Churches in 2017. I think Jesus’ words have always resonated, not just with me, nor even Christians – but with people who have a heart for people. Doctors, Nurses, Care Workers, Social Workers, Teachers – the list could go on. Through my dealings with these professionals in the public service sector, I am acutely aware of how their profession has become more challenging since I was ordained 30 years ago. I, and perhaps you, have not been surprised by the unprecedented strikes many have taken. Let alone the increasing strain on the voluntary sector. Highlighted this week by the RNLI saving continuing numbers of migrants illegally crossing the Channel. Criticised by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage as behaving like a “taxi service for illegal immigration”. The RNLI has said this week they ‘will not stop saving lives’. I expect those words will resonate on a number of levels for Christians. They will not stop saving lives.
In our times, possibly like many generations before us, we may feel anxious, not knowing where it will all end. To compound the general anxiety revelations and legal action continue to abound with our political leaders, adding to the malaise and sense that there are a growing number of people who feel, ‘lost and without a shepherd’. These are anxious days – Bishop Rosemarie Mallett and I concluded in our conversation when she visited the College of St Barnabas last Sunday for our annual Patronal Festival.
Days of Extremes – extreme political control and violence in Ukraine, Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan – and more.
Extreme Voices – in Fake News and Social Media Silos, providing platforms for ‘false shepherds’ in America, Russia, Uganda – and more.
Extremes in ‘Climate Change’. And not just a change of climate in the weather, but also in politics, economics, global demographics, and more. Perhaps for the first time in a generation, we see warnings that we cannot take our freedoms nor our responsibilities lightly. But what can we do?
Jesus says we should PRAY. Not lose heart and not dishearten others. But pray and do what we can where we can. When Bishop Rosemarie asked me what I did at the College as the Chaplain, I said, ‘That I try and help everyone to be kind to one another.’ She knew immediately what I meant, and that it was not a facile answer. Her knowing response spoke volumes to me and encouraged me to believe in what I am doing – particularly on days when I feel overwhelmed. Anxious, extreme, overwhelming days do not necessarily mean we are in the wrong place or have said or done the wrong thing. It simply means that we may need to pray, as Jesus said, and align ourselves once more – with the ‘Heartbeat of God’.
It is a heartbeat that gives Life to be shared in all its abundance.
A heartbeat that drums to the Rhythm of Love, Justice, and Peace.
A heartbeat that resounds through all time and eternity in the Cosmos, long after empires have fallen, and ‘tweeting’ tyrants are no more. Be still, and listen to the Heartbeat of God, for that is where Life in all its abundance begins. Amen.
(Sermon by the Chaplain, Rev Derek Chandler, based on Matthew 9:35-10:8)