The customers are back, but the employees are missing. After years of corona restrictions, many restaurants, pubs, cafés and tourism businesses are facing this challenge.
The Europa-Park in Rust is also suffering from an acute shortage of staff. Park manager Roland Mack sees the blame primarily in the younger generation and their "excessive demands" in terms of work-life balance.
Europa-Park boss criticizes Generation Z as "too demanding"
Overtime, bad pay, shift work – even on weekends and public holidays. Even before the Corona crisis, the catering and tourism industry was becoming less and less attractive for many employees. But since the pandemic, the shortage of staff has worsened drastically.
Roland Mack (72), head of "Europa-Park" in Rust, southern Germany, sees the problem above all in the younger generation and their work ethic. In an interview with the "Basler Zeitung" he complained about the "excessive demands" of young applicants.
"The word work-life balance worries me"
"There are 25-year-olds who only want to work for three days – they still have their whole lives ahead of them, could become something here, take on responsibility, make a career." Words like "work-life balance" and "home office" worried him. The fact that fewer and fewer young people are willing to work on weekends, for example, is a problem for the attraction park.
"Fortunately, the water park with hotel is already there, where we had to hire several hundred people at once before the pandemic," says Mack in the interview. Today he would no longer dare to build such a new building.
According to the entrepreneur, attempts are already being made in Rust to respond to the changed demands of Generation Z. "We're already paying far above the minimum wage and have now raised the wages again. But that doesn't help if the first question is: Do I have to work at the weekend?"
He himself cannot take the weekend off and "go on vacation when my employees work hard." For him, working in the park is "half a drug".
Mack explains that Europa-Park feels compelled to increasingly employ employees from Central Asia. "We are now looking for – and fortunately found – good people from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan."
Pandemic as an exit opportunity
Many other companies in the catering and tourism industry are also suffering from a massive shortage of staff. Why? The answer is not as simple as the Europa-Park boss makes it with his Generation Z statement.
The reasons are varied. Quite a few employees used the forced Corona break to reorient themselves. In addition, some foreign workers did not return to Germany after the lockdown at home.
At the same time, the number of newcomers to gastronomy and tourism fell significantly. Many saw no prospects due to the long corona uncertainty in the industry.
And in fact, the young generation in particular is less and less willing to accept the motto: "Live to work". And that's just as well. Because surveys show that half of Germans still feel threatened by burnout.
Generations Z and Y: Balancing life and job
Generation Z refers to those born between 1997 and 2012, i.e. those people who have been completely socialized with the Internet. "Gen Z" is considered to be very political, critical, IT-savvy, but also less committed and performance-oriented given the sheer endless possibilities they grew up with.
The same applies to the so-called Generation Y, born between 1980 and 2000. With them, the word work-life balance became more and more important. "Gen Y", also known as millennials, usually value leisure and family more than career and work.
Four-day week, home office, more vacation days: many millennials dare to make more demands so that their private lives don't fall by the wayside. Their ideas of life and job are often far removed from those of their bosses. These mostly belong to the baby boomer generation, the baby boomers born after the Second World War until 1969, which also includes the Europa-Park boss.
Generation gap with baby boomers
Baby boomers had to work hard to fight their way through a lot of competition. And so, according to labor market experts, it is only natural that they are considered to be more career-oriented and willing to work – and are more likely to accept overtime and cuts in their private lives.
This classification according to generations is greatly simplified and may not always apply. But the generational conflict in the workplace is real and is repeatedly lamented, especially by older employers like Roland Mack.
Gen Z Bloggers: "We're Only Doing What Everyone Should Have Been Doing"
The desire for a better work-life balance is much older than Generation Y or Z. Thanks to the Internet and an increasingly open society, younger people simply have more opportunities and fewer inhibitions to express this desire.
"I wouldn't say that we, Gen Z, are spoiled. We're just doing what everyone else should have done a long time ago: set clear boundaries at work," says American influencer DeAndre Brown. In his posts on Instagram and TikTok, he makes fun of generational clichés and wants to do away with the prejudice that the younger generation is spoiled and lazy.
Because getting lost in mutual blame-pointing doesn't help anyone anyway. It is much better to listen to each other, learn from each other and be open to redesigning the world of work.
In the crisis-ridden gastronomy, many companies have understood this. They are looking for solutions – for example switching to a four-day week or reducing their menu to relieve the workers who stayed. And soon, so the hope is, to attract more newcomers again.