It doesn’t seem like the recession has ended yet as the unemployment rate is still above 9%. The administration has made it one of their top priorities to restore the economy and create and find jobs for these unemployed. But is unemployment something we should be worrying about? What is the cause of this unemployment?
The economy is like a body builder. During expansions, he eats a lot of food to gain a lot of mass, both muscle and fat, to look bigger and stronger. During recessions, he doesn’t eat as much and loses his excess fat so all that is has left is his lean muscles. This way his body looks more cut and is more efficient. This excess fat that is lost during recessions is all the inefficiencies in the economy that need to be trimmed. To an extent, this is unemployment; the workers that are not needed are cut from the company.
Ever since World War II, the United States has shifted from a manufacturing industry to a service industry as all the manufacturing has moved overseas to cheaper countries such as China and India. Thus, a lot of low-skilled labor jobs have been lost and people are no longer needed in America to work in factories and assembly plants. But now service jobs are quickly being replaced overseas, specifically India, and by computers. Travel agents are replaced by websites like Expedia, librarians are replaced by Google and Wikipedia, bank tellers are replaced by ATMs, and salesmen are replaced by online stores. These now under-qualified workers are unemployed since they are being replaced by automated systems.
The difference in today’s economy is that to succeed, you actually need unique, irreplaceable skills. There are still a lot of job postings on Berkeley’s Career Center, but a lot of these postings ask for experience or a very specific skill set, particularly programming. The average American only aspires to make money and thus tends to major in either Pre-Medicine or Business, but honestly, you don’t acquire much skills by going to an undergraduate business school. Not that tools have been created to replace under-qualified applicants, applicants that are experts in these tools are now needed.
What skills do you need then? Skills that allow you to maneuver today’s technology – computer and programming skills, social media and marketing (which is really easy now), account, and the list goes on. But most of all, you need ideas and creativity. A hard worker is easy to find, but a good idea isn’t. Today’s fastest growing companies are based on ideas and designs. Think about Apple – they only design their products and create innovative solutions, but do not perform any of the manufacturing. Start-up companies are all based on ideas that have potential to contribute to society. You need to be able to think out of the box since there are already too many people trying really hard in the box. Think of all the innovative products that have boosted productivity in the past decade: Google, YouTube, Mint, Facebook, Reddit, the list goes on.
Here’s another way of thinking about it: if these people were really skilled (in something that actually has economic value at least), then they wouldn’t be unemployed. If you were a company, would you want to hire unskilled employees? Would you want to hire someone who does not meet your expectations and might only make the company less productive? It is in the best interest not to hire under-qualified employees. There is only one company who will, the government, which is where our tax dollars go to waste.
The wealth gap has significantly widened during this past decade with the Bush administration partially to blame. But think of it this way: if the economy is shifting away from a service industry, then the wealth and primary center of productivity lies within those with these high skills sets, which are very few. In other words, perhaps the unequal wealth distribution is due to the large disparity between America’s under-qualified and over-qualified workers.
So how do we fix this problem? Americans must “qualify” themselves either through higher education or vocational schools to get internship in the companies via the jobs of construction recruitment agencies to have better options for the jobs in future. Everyone needs a skill that contributes to society otherwise they should expect to be unemployed. One thing Obama is doing correctly is spending more money on education, allowing poorer students to go to school, and having more money available for research. Unfortunately we have fundamentalist Christians who hate the word “science” and young people whose only goals is to be rich. If only education here was free like it is in other countries.