Look, the Great Quitting is risky for us African writers.

By Nyasha Bhobo

Everyone is talking about the Great Quitting – abandoning secure, well-paid corporate jobs, including writing or journalism, for more time with friends, family, and personal pursuits, or a side hustle. Sounds cute and easy but for us African writers – the Great Quitting smells of high privilege.

I’m reading of the Great Quitting at a time I’m hunting for more writing jobs to feed my family, and I’m astonished. I’m hearing a record 4.4 million US employees quit their jobs in September last year alone and the trend persists into late 2022. As of June, we have now had six straight months of more than 11 million job openings and 12 straight months of more than 4 million people choosing to quit their jobs in the US. There were 11.3 million job vacancies —61% more than before Covid, and nearly double as many as the number of unemployed job seekers.

The so-called Great Quitting is a Great privilege. Can freelance or even full-time African writers like me afford to quit their newspaper or television jobs? Can minorities in the US itself afford to do that in corporate America?

I’m going to say no.

Structural inequalities remain in many industries and geographies, especially in our field of writing. For example, throughout the US: Gender and racial pay disparities, as well as a general dearth of diversity in c-suites, are common knowledge. There is unconscious bias in the workplace, and workers of color must work double their work effort to sort of ‘prove themselves.’ It’s too risky to be a worker of color and seen as underperforming. Same for us African writers. It’s too hard to get a full-time job as a writer on this side of the world, one that can adequately support your needs and that of your family financially. So, we end up as freelance writers for foreign global publications like Globe and Mail Canada, which I wrote for this year. In the few instances where we find full-time jobs say as an African-based reporter for The New York Times or NPR, we overwork ourselves, not wanting to lose a precious job that’s hard to come by. For me, a freelance writer in Africa, to find a job as a reporter for say, The LA Times, and abruptly quit and follow the Great Quitting wave, is to risk the mighty unknown and sleep on an empty stomach.

Secondly, as companies’ layoffs now accelerate, led by tech giants (Netflix, Twitter, Facebook), there is the phenomenon of “The Great Boomerang” flooding the internet. It means employees who have left for “greener pastures” during the Great Quitting, met disappointment, and are now bouncing back to their “steady paycheck” old employers. The “Great Boomerang” proves how risky it is for minority writers either in the news or corporate media like me to quit their jobs in the first place and how doubly hard it is to be taken back by their employers.

In short, casual talk of “The Great Quitting” is misleading as it hides how risky this is for freelance writers in Africa like me for whom, an entire family’s ability to have three meals a day depends on my job as a reporter for say a foreign publication like Washington Post.

The Great Quitting is a preserve for those writers with a safety net, a family trust fund, those who are in privilege, usually those writers who are not people of color.

23 September, 2022