Painful Truth: Strange how well paying people works

Airlines are the latest industry to discover letting worker wages stagnate isn’t good for business.

The people who run our economy are not always that bright.

Take the case of airline pilots.

Guess how much they’re paid?

It’s a technical job requiring hundreds of hours of flight time and extensive training. On top of that, it requires long hours and frequent absences from home. Surely they’re paid well, right?

Well, yes and no.

From about 2013 until last year, there was a major crisis in the airline industry. Regional airlines and even some big players simply couldn’t hire enough pilots.

Years of ferocious competition among low-cost regional airlines had driven wages in the United States down dramatically.

A newly hired pilot could earn as little as $22,500 per year – and most pilots have student loans to pay back.

So pilots simply didn’t take the jobs. Local airlines started to cancel flights.

Larger carriers paid better, of course. But a rules change allowing American pilots to retire at age 65 instead of 60 meant that there was suddenly a glut of experienced pilots who had no reason to retire for five more years.

The phrase “pilot shortage” began to be whispered, then screamed from the rooftops.

But it wasn’t until about a year ago that someone found a partial solution to the shortage – pay pilots more.

The wages of a starting commercial pilot have doubled in one year.

Now more people are entering flight school, and more new pilots are graduating.

It’s almost as if paying people a decent middle class wage for a skilled job will attract people to the industry! What a revelation!

This story is about airline pilots, but I’ve seen it over and over.

A growing industry sees wages stagnate. Suddenly, it’s hard to hire workers! The owners try everything they can think of! They ask for government help! They demand more training! They ask for tax breaks!

Then, reluctantly, they decide to actually pay people. Weird how that works.

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