JOBS IN AMERICA NEED TO EVOLVE

Mankind has alway evolved through the millennia, taking advantage of what they have learned, working more efficiently and realizing that their environment is ever-changing.  Stone Age to Iron, nomadic hunters-gathers to (in effect) farmers, the Division of Labor to the Industrial Revolution, and on today’s world of computers and new technology.  Industry in America today has transformed from being labor-intensive to a service industry.

While Washington argues the pros and cons of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Labor looks back at the many jobs that were lost after NAFTA and CAFTA, two former trade agreements that resulted in the transfer of jobs to countries in South and Central America.  At the same, we have to realize that much of our Industry today has also transferred from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and Southeast Regions within our own country.  Business has always sought greater cost-efficiencies.

Gone are the days of the next generation joining the local mill or plant after high school, perhaps taking jobs similar to older family members, working for the same company.  Nowadays, with the advent of robotics and technological advances, industrial production requires more advanced skills, mechanization and, of course, less manpower.  And that is, of course, if the jobs haven’t moved elsewhere.

There are a number of new industries, and also considerable growth in existing ones, which should become the focus of the future.  Just a few are: financial services; computer programming and design; systems analysis; artificial intelligence; health care and, yes, education.  Someone has to challenge and teach the work force of the future–even beyond what is required todayand health care workers will be needed to take care of the growing elderly population who are living longer.

Sure, no country and no employee group wants to lose good-paying jobs; however, as the demand for many of those employees diminishes, the pay scales will decline anyway.  For too long, industry has been complaining about what could or should have been; but frankly, employees must truly take responsibility for their own future.  Think about it: how can anyone spend a lifetime expecting to do the same job as the robot that is next to them; but, it never gets sick or takes vacation, and it only needs an occasional can of oil or a tune-up from time to time?

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  1. #1 by Sidchem on April 23, 2015 - 2:36 PM

    We also can’t allow capital to have a one sided war against labor where people are paid so little for there work. The people who work fast food work just as hard as people who used to get paid well in manufacturing. The main difference is that the fast food workers are not unionized and thus have to fight unfair battle for wages. With all of the productivity we have now from machines we should have a minimum wage close to $20/hr and then capital can go toward spending money on training people. Low wages lead to low productivity just like slavery in the US lead ww to the downfall of the South.

    • #2 by cheekos on April 23, 2015 - 4:24 PM

      SidChem, I realize that raising the minimum wage can indeed raise consumer spending, which increases revenue, decreased demands on the social safety net, enhances the tax rolls and increases business profitability. Better-paid workers create a warmer customer environment and reduce employee turn-over rates, as well. And that mens less down-time training new employees.

      My point in this blog post, however, was to suggest that technology, at least in some industries, reduces the demand for workers. For instance, some restaurant chains are using iPads for customers to placed orders. Now, that change by itself will initially cause confusion and improper orders, at least, until regular customers learn the routine. Over time, it will become commonplace in most restaurants, and the public will become familiar with it–just like with ATMs. It starts with merely ordering dessert and, then, to ordering appetizers, asking for condiments, refreshing drinks and, pretty soon, servers merely bring the orders to tables. Payment would also be automated, as well.

      So, young workers–or those in high school–need to watch what is going on. Notice trends in different places they go, give some thought as to what companies have less employees and where there appears to be a greater demand. They should pay particular attention to the demographics–namely what products and services the older generation, which is quickly becoming a greater demographic–are needing or seeking. In the work force of the future, the unskilled or low-skilled employee becomes a commodity and has no bargaining skills. Unions were oriented toward the industrial needs of the past–masses of routing workers–but that will not mess with the future. Large facilities with hundreds of thousands of workers, at least in my opinion, will be replaced with many more smaller facilities, tech-oriented and each with a much lower demand for labor.

      I realize that this is a lot for a 17-18 year old to take in; but, they will have to give some thought–and be forward-looking before they look for jobs. Do they wish to enter a higher-paying career that is geared for tomorrow, or become a lower-paid commodity, who cannot control his or her own destiny?

  2. #3 by sidchem on April 23, 2015 - 6:31 PM

    Machines don’t eliminate the need for workers since there is never a shortage of work in a society. Machines allow greater production/worker and that productivity must be shared in order to prevent loss of jobs and income for workers. Low skilled workers in the past used to work in the factory, weren’t a “commodity” because the workers were organized and made sure that they were treated as being necessary for production. Low skill workers do not lack bargaining skills (as you say), they lack representation in the government that allows them to organize. They have also been bought off to some extent by worker tax credits. Why go on strike or burn down your local McDonald’s if the government will pay you enough to live even though your job doesn’t? Machines don’t have to mean low wages for unskilled workers, unless the workers are stripped of their ability to organize and bargain by government.

  3. #4 by cheekos on April 23, 2015 - 10:43 PM

    SidChem, I’m not sure of what your point is here. If you read through my blog, you will see that I normally come down on the side of the little guy–the individual worker. If, as you write: there is “never a shortage of work”, but that work has been reduced in importance–read demand–it will not command as high a wage scale in the real world. My point here is for Labor to consider history and realize that today’s worker in America consider today’s facts of life. There is no rational way that you can organize what amounts to less and less.

  4. #5 by sidchem on April 24, 2015 - 5:14 AM

    Cheekos

    First of all, thanks for this and all your blogs, I really do appreciate them quite a bit.

    However I don’t think the work has decreased in demand or importance from work in the past, it is characterized that way because capital can pay a lot less for it since the workers are not organized. The people who clean things are not that less skilled than many of the factory workers who were paid quite well in the past, however they lack organization that allows them to command a decent wage. In many cases, wages are not a case of supply and demand, but a case of the relative power between workers and capital.

    It may be in the future, that we will only need a very small group of very skilled workers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay the people who do the less skilled work less than a slave wage as we do now in many cases where they can’t afford food and shelter without government aid. They need to share in the productivity of society despite what capital thinks and can get away with in what today is seen as “the real world”.

    Best regards

    Sid

    • #6 by cheekos on April 25, 2015 - 2:14 PM

      SidChem, Marx and Engels would be proud of you–the way that you seem to have couched the whole Labor Issue in terms of “We and They”. There is a whole lot more: Legislation, such as Right-to Work Laws; Demographics, such as the greater demand for Health Care among the elderly, many of whom have moved to the Sun Belt; states vying with each other to steal jobs from each other through Tax Forgiveness and Zero-Cost Financing, whiteout considering the Net of jobs actually gained to those lost; the reduction of experienced pilots coming from the military (perhaps by two-thirds) to fly commercial airliners, generating a demand for flight schools; etc. And, that is in addition to full or partial obsolesce (buggy whips and consumer mail usage); new technology, such as robotics and mechanized agricultural harvesting; changes in client preference, such as mobile and on-line shopping. And hey, that old standby–CORPORATE GREED!

      So, the whole point of my blog post was that younger workers today, as well as those preparing for future employment should try to discern where the jobs of tomorrow will be–and prepare accordingly. Also, along the way, workers may very well have to re-invent themselves, just like some corporations have. For example: IBM used to be a computer company; but, its forte today seems to be in providing IT solutions and service.

  5. #7 by cheekos on April 29, 2015 - 3:10 PM

    Even in China, robotics is working its way into the assembly lines–reducing the need for low-cost labor. The linked article is from the Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article19292601.html

  6. #8 by cheekos on May 30, 2015 - 9:41 PM

    In a somewhat more recent blog post, “When will the blow-back against the Minimum Wage heat-up”, “Creative Clyde” left a Comment in which he cited the book, “The Second Machine Age” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. In his Comment, Clyde pointed out that the book, discussed the impact of technology on labor; however, the authors suggest that their work really describes the current confluence of Economics, Labor and Technology. I agree.

    I have recently started to read the book by Brynjolfsson and McAfee, and I and have noticed how apropos it is to some of the points that (unknowingly) I had discussed in another post, “Jobs in America need to evolve”. If you have any interest in wondering how we could and should prepare for the future–parents and student, teachers and educators at all levels, technologists, psychologists, governments, corporations, education-oriented foundations, and Big Labor–then, I would recommend that you read it. Remember that the future will be here before you know it. know it.

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