I’ve blogged before about the job destroying impact of automation and robotics. Once a machine can do a job, it’s gone. Peter Coy of Bloomberg has a different take. He believes humans and robots will work together in a future society. Robots will do work that is rote and mindless. Humans will perform tasks that require creativity and emotional response.
Hopefully Coy is right, but I’m more pessimistic. Coy talks about the improvements in voice recognition software. How many phone sales and customer service jobs have been lost because of this innovation? How many more will be lost in the future? Similarly cloud storage is enabling companies to cut staff that manages network and IT support functions. Driverless vehicles, when they are perfected (not if), will push many workers out of a job.
I hope the optimists like Coy and many smiling futurists are right in predicting work will become more creative in the age of robots. I’m less sanguine. As Coy states, too many jobs involve rote tasks that can be automated. I grew up near the steel mills in Cleveland. Within ten years, 4 steel mills were closed because European competitors sold cheaper, higher quality steel produced with automated functions. The city was devastated and has never fully recovered. That was industrial automation. Now the service industry and professional services are being automated. What sane employer will pay an employer if she can invest in and profit from a much cheaper, more efficient robot?
USA Today offers a great article on people to have to move for a new job. 15% of executives and managers had to move to take a new position. The article attributes this situation to two factors: an improving economy and job seekers’ willingness to move. Many of my clients can’t move because of family commitments. Those who can expand the market for their services. In a job market where salaries are still tight, moving to another city can be a way to earn more money. Relocation should be an option in a good career management strategy.
According to the Department of Labor, there are more than 5 million open jobs in the U.S., the highest number since such statistics were first kept in 2000. Huffington Post reports that this news is good for the labor market and the overall economy. This good news does not guarantee that you can find a good job. Finding a job and managing a career is always an individual enterprise. It’s a lot easier when companies are hiring.
Walmart announced that it will raise its minimum hourly wage to $9 and increase that wage to $10 next year. It’s great that the company has made this move on its own. However, will this raise really change the lives of its workers? A person making $9 an hour will still be earning about $20,000 a year – if she is working full time. If the worker is a parent, she will certainly still need public aid for food and housing. In essence, working people and the middle class will continue to be underwriting Walmart’s work force. We need to establish a living wage and commit ourselves as citizens to paying a little extra so we can all live decent lives.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 321,000 new jobs were added in November, and it revised hiring figures for recent months to reflect increased job growth. According to Daily Kos, there are still many Americans who are out of work or only able to find part-time jobs. That’s the downside. The upside is that job growth is starting to lead to higher wages. If this trend continues, that will be the real game changer. While hiring has increased the last two years, salary has not been increasing. If you’ve been stuck at a job that has been giving you small raises or no raises, it’s time to start looking for a new job.
The website 24/7 Wall Street reports that the Los Angeles City Council is debating a raise in the minimum wage that would bring the wage to $13.25 in 2017 and $15.25 by 2019. Critics says this measure would cost jobs. The problem with that claim is that the wage will be phased in over 5 years. If a business cannot adapt in that time period, that company is not viable. The report also said that companies in L.A. might move to nearby communities with lower minimum wages. There’s a simple solution to that problem: raise the national minimum wage. America needs a raise.
Some leaders know when to sacrifice. Raymond Burse, the interim President of Kentucky State University, is cutting his salary to raise the wage of his lowest paid employees. By cutting his salary by $90,000, Burse is raising his campus’ minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.25. May many leaders follow his example.
I was on vacation and have been unable to post for a few days. I was going to skip today as well, but there is a great article in today’s Huffington Post. It describes how children are made to work throughout most of the world. The two main exceptions: Europe and North America (plus the lightly populated Australia). What do these areas have in common? Workers joined together in unions, often allying with religious reformers and advocates for children, to fight for laws that protected children from exploitations. The next time someone speaks against unions, remind them that there are many places in the world where there are no unions. Those are places where wages are very low and an adult can be working next to a child.
Too many people are hung up with resentment about poor people who get benefits. What they need to think about instead is the millions of Americans that work hard, but can’t make enough money to live without some kind of state aid. Huffington Post offers a great article on these people, how hard they work, and how they live. If you are against raising the minimum wage, I recommend that you read this article and think about the people it describes
Anyone familiar with Diane Ravitch’s writing knows she is on the political left. That said, her latest article does a great job of showing how our political and economic decisions are linked to education. Whatever your political views, I recommend that you consider her views and how they impact both students you care about and how they impact your tax dollars. As Ravitch points out, jobs are also at issue. As long as Americans are competing with workers in developing nations that earn much less, jobs will continue to outsourced. Ravitch, like a good teacher, helps us connect the dots.
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