Where Will The Jobs Be? – Even Waiters Are In Jeopardy; High School Graduates Really Do Have Fewer Places To Work

News item:
The company is selling its cost-savings and margin-boosters, not just its benefits for customers sick of waiting for the bill, to businesses. First and foremost: lower labor costs…
Annie Lowery, This Waiter Doesn’t Need a Tip:  How restaurants will use tablet computers to replace servers. – Slate.com.


In an ongoing series of posts over the last couple of years, I have asked “where will the jobs be?”  I have presented synopses of a number of books (practically all of the best sellers) on the financial crisis of recent history.  But the problem that bothers me the most is this:  more than the mortgage crisis, the Wall Street crisis, the European/Greek crisis, the real crisis is the disappearance of jobs for the hard-working high school graduates.

In Pinched:  How the Great Recession Has Narrowed our Futures and What We Can Do About It, Don Peck (author of the widely read Atlantic article, Can the Middle Class Be Saved?), writes this:

“Forty years ago, thirty years ago, if you were one of the fairly constant fraction of boys who wasn’t ready to learn in high school, there were ways for you to enter the mainstream economy,” says Henry Farber, an economist at Princeton. “When you woke up, there were jobs. There were good industrial jobs, so you could have a good industrial, blue-collar career. Now those jobs are gone.” And men have yet to adjust.
In 1967, 97 percent of thirty-to fifty-year-old American men with only a high-school diploma were working; in 2010, just 76 percent were.
In her 2010 Atlantic essay “The End of Men,” the journalist Hanna Rosin posed the question “What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men?”

From 97% to 76% is quite a drop!  Where did these jobs go?  Robert Reich attributes the problem primarily to “automation.”  He wrote this in Aftershock – The Next Economy and America’s Future

The problem was not simply the loss of good jobs to workers in foreign nations but also automation…  Remember bank tellers?  Telephone operators?  The fleets of airline workers behind counters who issued tickets?  Service station attendants?  These and millions of other jobs weren’t lost to globalization; they were lost to automation.  American has lost at least as many jobs to automated technology as it has to trade.

I have little worry about the future of the better-educated (though, even the jobs for this group are not quite as plentiful and well-paying as they were just a few years ago).  The much bigger worry is for the “lesser-educated.”  And the problem is that, literally, there are not enough jobs left for this group.  (See the quote at the top; now even wait staff will be reduced by technology).

So, as I keep asking, “where will the jobs be?”

2 thoughts on “Where Will The Jobs Be? – Even Waiters Are In Jeopardy; High School Graduates Really Do Have Fewer Places To Work

  1. Kelly Kunst

    Tim Pawlenty talked about this at an NCPA lunch last year. His point was, regardless of whether or not you supported the stimulus, if we don’t fix the educational system to get in alignment with where the job market is GOING in the US we are going to continue to have problems. The US school system was designed for developing semi-skilled labor for the Industrial Revolution and little has changed. I tend to favor Howard Gardner’s work in the Theory of Multiple Intelligences over other answers. But one thing is clear: our educational system needs an overhaul!

  2. Randy Mayeux Post author

    Kelly, I do not disagree. But I think no one yet has the answer for the kind of education needed for the “not-knowledge-worker” in this new era. It is quite a challenge.

    And, just to mention an even more provocative piece of the puzzle… Neil Postman basically predicted, in Technopoly, that the day will come when all of the work that needs to be done can be done by a very low percentage of the people on the planet. What then?
    I think this is the challenge of the era!


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