Is the Global Supply Chain Crisis Truly a Labor Issue?

Grocery stores have had more empty shelf space than usual in recent months. New car dealerships have had less inventory to sell. Everywhere you look, you see fallout from the ongoing supply chain crisis. But is the crisis truly a labor issue, as a recent New York Times post suggests?

That may depend entirely on how you view everything from global trade regulations to labor itself. The Times lays most of the blame on a labor shortage in the transport industry. Taking it one step further, they blame the labor shortage on onerous COVID-19 restrictions.

If the Times is correct and said restrictions are the primary culprit, it should be only a matter of time before things get back to normal. That is assuming world governments will eventually remove the coronavirus shackles and let the rest of us get back to living.

Planes, Trains, and Ships

The vast majority of cargo is carried overseas by huge container ships. The remainder travels on planes. Once delivered to importers, it is transferred across the mainland by trains and trucks. All these transportation options require human beings to operate. Therein lies the first problem, as identified by the New York Times piece.

When coronavirus hit, government lockdowns prevented anyone from moving just about anywhere. That put the kibosh on the supply chain overnight. Of course, we were told it would only take two weeks to flatten the curve. Nearly two years later, restrictions remain in place in many parts of the world.

Since the resumption of international trade, transportation companies have not been able to hire enough people to keep up with higher shipping demand. The New York Times cites several examples to explain why that might be:

  • Visa Issues – Visa issues have long plagued international logistics. The issues have only been exacerbated by a slower visa process related to coronavirus shutdowns.
  • Travel Bans – Government-imposed travel bans have obviously had an impact on how far from home transport workers can actually travel.
  • Vaccination Requirements – Where vaccination requirements do not square with one’s ability or willingness to get vaccinated, workers are shut out of employment without the jab.
  • Worker Quarantines – Worst of all are worker quarantines that have sailors trapped on ships, pilots unable to fly, and truck drivers being isolated in their rigs without access to food or essential services.

The way the Times describes it suggests a miserable working environment for workers in the transportation sector. If even half of what they claim in their post is accurate, it is no wonder shipping companies, trucking companies, etc. ere having trouble bringing back furloughed employees and hiring new ones.

Government’s Hunger for Control

All the coronavirus-related issues that the Times discusses in their post are symptomatic of a much larger problem: the government’s insatiable hunger for control. Even before coronavirus hit, international trade was made more complicated than it has to be by onerous trade regulations. Companies like Ohio-based Vigilant Global Trade Services exist only because importers and exporters need expert help in maintaining trade compliance services.

At the heart of the supply chain crisis is government. It is them that have created this mess by piling one regulation on top of another for decades. They created a dam of regulation that finally burst with coronavirus. And now, as they look to use coronavirus as a tool for maintaining control, they are making a bad situation even worse.

Is the supply chain crisis a labor problem? Yes, but only in the sense that the labor problem is one aspect of a much larger problem: government interference.

Sudarsan Chakraborty
Sudarsan Chakraborty
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