Where’d All The Good Jobs Go?

Today’s unemployment means that a large quantity of jobs have been lost. In the Harvard Business Review, Umair Haque explores the idea that the US’s quality of jobs is just as much an issue. It’s worth reading in its entirety:

Every time I buy something from your local big-box retailer, it’s not that, as protectionists and “patriots” often claim, that I’m destroying an American job. In fact, it’s worse: I just might be helping stamp out the idea that there should be jobs as we know them.

Consider: the bulk of that stuff is made, when we cut through the triumphant rhetoric of globalization, by people who are “sub(sub-sub)-contractors,” enjoying few, if any, of the benefits we associate with “jobs” — security, tenure, benefits, labor standards, etc. And, of course, when those privileges are gained, production is simply moved to countries, regions, and cities where they haven’t been.

Low quality demand, then, means that we buy cheap, but the price is invisibly steep: it ignites a global race to the bottom, what a complexity economist might call a dynamic equilibrium of negative consumption externalities, consumption that results not just in joblessness but a loss in the quality of jobs. The quality of a job is sparked by higher quality demand; or, valuing more than just the dollar price of a thing, but also its human and social impact. When we have low-quality demand, we have low-quality jobs. When we value McDonalds, the result is McJobs.

Shifting jobs to lower-wage countries is a tremendous boon to the impoverished. But it would be an even bigger boon if it weren’t a double whammy: if, sneakily, we didn’t also denude jobs of quality as they were shifted overseas; if the wage differential itself was enough, instead of exploiting a lack of governance and legislation as well; if that which makes a job more than just mere work didn’t get, ever so conveniently, lost in translation.

I think the global race to the bottom idea might only apply to the outsourcing country, not the country that is being outsourced too, which often sees an increase in quality of life.

It’s natural for economic power to move from one region to another every so often. This is what we’re seeing now with the US, a loss of economic power in favor of other countries. The question, then, is how do we mitigate our losses, stay competitive, and maintain a tolerable, if not affluent, standard of living? The effect of changing our consumption habits is worth exploring, especially since we’re such a consumer-driven economy.

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  • Kevin Thrun

    Interesting article, but pretty much covered previously known facts. With that said, what’s the solution to this ever-growing problem of not enough living wage jobs? To be honest with you, I really don’t see a solution in our near or even near-far future. New industry is not growing fast enough to keep up with all the folks coming into the working age. Add in us folks over 55 who have lost our previously good paying jobs for one reason or another
    ( can’t find a good replacement job )and most would agree we have a mess on our hands. Too bad we didn’t have a back up plan. With all the smart people around you would think there would have been a bunch of these people sitting in a room coming up with a good back up plan. Maybe I’ll write more on this later. Send me an e-mail if you would want to hear more from ” The Average Guy over 55. “

  • SBradley

    JOB CONSISTENCY…such a simple solution to a growing problem!?!

    What does this mean? Well just that….we need STEADY employment, it’s that simple!

    What most of these companies and employers fail to truly understand is, if a higher percentage of us are loosing our top jobs and having to apply to the likes of Walmart, Lowes, BestBuy?? Think about it, most of the employees working at those stores cannot even afford the products they sell! What’s wrong with this picture.

    What’s worse is, quite a few of these employees have good educations in completely different fields then where they are employed (Aka: engineers flipping burgers). So that being said, who’s really making the money here? Best part is, even these crap jobs are hard to come by!

    The REAL question is, if the majority of us are in this boat, who’s going to buy new homes? Fridges and stoves, new cars, 3D flat screens? Who will afford to go to the Keg or Milestones?? Who can afford vacations to a resort or a cruise?? I’m a well educated individual who certainly can’t!!

    What if it gets worse? Well technically it could, if nobody is buying these luxuries then these companies will go bankrupt, thus we loose our low paying jobs, thus making it even harder to find any work at all. Well at least there will always be WALMART right? Oh please sign me up :)

    I’m really not sure what sickens me the most, an uncertain future with non-consistent employment? OR an even worse situation for the generations ahead??

    Our kids and grandchildren are our future. They will be the ones taking care of us when we retire!

    Would you like a really good picture how “Nice” it will be when we are elderly, just walk through a shopping mall or a fast food joint, how’s the service? What are most of the kids doing?

    Are they on their Black Berries? Yet they are ignorant to their customers? Why is this? Well it’s simple, they don’t care, even people in their 20s and 30s don’t care anymore…why? We are getting fed up with having no sense of a bright future.

    Ask yourself this, if you were well educated yet had a really tough time finding a crap job not even related to what you studied would you be very happy? No, but when you keep plugging for a few years and hit 30 or later still with no real results, still working one crap job after another and so on, would you care as much either?

    Just think, most of our caregivers and Health care aides don’t make much either and the attitude in health care is waning also. Most of them don’t care as much these days either, they are over worked and underpaid. I really shudder to think what it will be like in 20 to 40 years!!

    I could write a novel here…but I won’t. Regardless, Things had better change…and FAST if we are to save ourselves from certain doom! Call me negative if you will but lets all (yes that includes you CEO’s, politicians and business owners) we all need to get our heads out of our asses, quit trying to work out things that don’t matter and work on things that do, thus creating a sense of hope and accomplishment among men and women alike.

    Lastly, is working on our health care system the real remedy to curing our sick and needy or is it that most of us are simply overworked, underpaid and stressed to the point of sickness or worse? What’s the real remedy here people?!?

    Thank you!