“Your country needs you” pleads UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt to the over-50s, echoing the concerns of Jay Powell at the Federal Reserve about the “excess retirements” which have drained America of 2mn workers. Policymakers remain perplexed by the Great Resignation, in countries facing labour shortages. But it’s not the workers they should appeal to: it’s the employers.

Before Christmas, I predicted a “Great Unretirement”, once the novelty of gardening wears off and savings wear thin. But I’ve had to change my mind after provoking a huge response from FT readers, many explaining why they’ve retired and will never return. Some cashed in corporate pensions after transfer values rose in the pandemic. A few were unwell. But what took me by surprise was the vehement dislike expressed for many jobs. “If you could press a button and delete everything I’d ever done in every corporate job I’ve had”, wrote one man, “I would feel nothing at all”. 

Having enjoyed most of my jobs, I was dismayed by the outpouring of disillusionment. Readers with years of hard graft in all sorts of industries felt downtrodden by bureaucracy, meaningless training and frothy “initiatives” imposed by managers who moved on, in companies which showed no loyalty after years of service. “Even though I’m writing programming code better than any time in my life”, wrote one, “if I returned to IT I’d be eaten alive, not by the youngsters (they’re a joy), but by aggressively competitive middle managers, who are driven to distraction to find productivity gains”.

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