Wow. What I meant to be just a quick response ended up being a rant.
I have mixed feelings about thisAlterNet excerpt from Jim Hightower’s new book
Hightower emphasizes that the largest number of job gains between now and 2010 are in unskilled, low paying fields. He doesn’t note that most of the jobs lost to date, and most of the jobs that will be lost during the same period are also low skilled jobs.
This is one of the major problems: people are coming out of relatively high paying but low skill jobs to low paying low skill jobs.
This problem is compounded by the wage drop due to wages increasing at a slower pace than inflation.
This is a big problem, and it’s leading to new labor unions. And part of the solution will most likely involve higher minimum wages.
What irks me is that Hightower implies that job training won’t be important, especially since as far as Hightower’s concerned, the economy’s problem is the lack of high tech jobs. In the excerpt Hightower cites the BLS’ 30 Occupations Adding the Most Jobs by 2010 report. Perhaps Tower is working from a different list from the one I found, but the list I found has registered nurses, postsecondary teachers, retail salespersons, and customer service representatives above “Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.” At any rate, he’s right that over 2/3 the jobs on the list require minimal skills. [update: I think I must be looking at a different one from him, because the one I’m looking at goes to 2012 not 2010]
But he ignores the fastest growing jobs. More than 2/3s of the jobs on this list require specialized training. Almost all of them are in technology, health care, or education. And, depending how you count, about 2/3s of them can’t be offshored. At least one of these jobs, nursing, is already surfering from major shortages. So, the problems: people need to be able to afford to take the time off to train or re-train for these positions, pay for the training when necessary, people need to be motivated to re-train rather than wait around for jobs that will never come back, and there needs to be funding for the jobs once people are trained. So there needs to be money for health care, education, and social service programs. This money can come from taxes on corporations who off-shore mass amounts of employment services.
One thing that needs to happen is that public education needs to better prepare students for a constantly changing labor market. Remember, public education was designed to prepare an elite group of students for college and the rest for factory work (President Woodrow Wilson: “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”). Schools seem to set people up for failure. The school system does not provide students with the confidence and basic learning skills to adapt to changing demands. Even the “go to college” mantra repeated in high schools is detrimental: it gives students the idea that all they have to do is go to college and everything will be fine, and it damages the confidence of students who don’t go to college or think they aren’t smart enough.
Welfare and social services don’t do any better with adults, and college and universities could be greatly improved to enhance students ability to cope with the job market.
Anyway, I could ramble more about this, but I don’t have time. I’d also like to talk about starting new businesses and stuff. Some other time, I guess.