(Fabian Blank, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content

When unemployment is low, competition for talent can lead to a sellers’ market. Organizations must compete for attention hoping to attract the best people.

But attractive salaries are not the only tool employers are using: benefits and perks have become the new frontline in the battle for recruitment and retention of staff.

GrantTree is a UK firm that helps businesses apply for tax rebates. It has a flat structure with no line-management. It also lets staff – refered to as partners – set their own salaries.

That might sound like an easy way to get a massive pay rise. Or an even easier way for a business to run out of money. But, according to a post on the GrantTree blog, there are checks and balances in place to stop people’s cheques and balances getting out of hand.

“We collect data relevant to our salary and performance, we write a proposal for a new salary based on this data, we receive feedback on our proposal and we make a final decision about our pay,” writes Robert Kellner, the company’s head of content.

Perks for parents

Non-financial benefits are also proving popular, particularly in the US.

The social media platform, Pinterest, has several non-financial perks aimed at parents in particular. Such as four months’ leave for new parents. That’s followed by a four-week period during which they only need to show up for work once a week, while still receiving full pay.

Parents of children with learning or developmental disabilities can join online classes, paid for by the company. There’s a find-a-babysitter service, too, and they’ll even ship your breastmilk home if you’re travelling for work.

But perhaps the most arresting perk offered by Pinterest is that they’ll pay for female employees to have their eggs frozen, if they want to delay starting a family.

The publisher Penguin Random House offers its employees free books. While ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, which encourages staff to come up with new names for flavours, gives them free ice cream too – three pints a day each.

Image: Ben & Jerry’s/Greg Comollo

California-based outdoor clothing company Patagonia has a unique benefit, as the owner and founder Yvon Chouinard told CNBC: “We have a policy that when the surf comes up, you drop work and you go surfing.”

Who will benefit in future?

The global unemployment rate dropped from 8% of the workforce in 2010 to 5.2% in September of this year – that’s the lowest level since 1980. That downward trend is visible across almost all the world’s largest economies, with Brazil as one notable exception.

How unemployment stacks up across the globe.
Image: Statista


Low unemployment has helped to foster the expectation of attractive perks among high-skilled and knowledge workers in developed economies.

But their blue-collar counterparts in developing economies, such as textiles machinists in Asia, are not experiencing the same benefits.

The increasing deployment of automation technologies in the workplace could change the employment landscape, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report.

Almost 50% of businesses expect to reduce their headcount by 2022, because of automation. Perhaps as many as 75 million jobs will be displaced by the increased use of automation, robotics and AI.

The Future of Jobs Report found there is likely to be an average shift of 42% in required workforce skills between now and 2022, meaning success in a world of new roles and new ways of working will call upon workers to reskill quickly and frequently.

So if you’re lucky enough to get free books or ice cream now, enjoy them while you can.