The World Economic Forum ended on a dark worried note about the future of the worldwide workforce. The Davos gathering didn't doubt the numbers or projections. It is the means to the end that gave them consternation.
According to Vikram Pandit, CEO of the global bank, Citigroup Inc., "The world needs 400 million new jobs between now and the end of the decade, not counting the 200 million needed just to get back to full employment, so "that should be our number one priority".
It is not a simple scenario to just materialize 600 million jobs in 8 years. It is a real and dire problem with the nothing less than the world economy at stake. The financial leaders and heads of corporations spent time finger pointing across national boundaries, but they came away without a tangible solution how to grow worldwide GDP and therefore jobs.
That there is no concerted and coordinated global response to a looming work crisis may indicate a fundamental problem with how our worldwide economic system functions with implications that impact all class and economic levels.
We Aren't Entitled to Work?
Is there such a thing as a right to work in a free market, capitalistic, global economic system? Are we as a population in the USA entitled to earn a living if we are sound of mind, able bodied and skilled? It was easy to ignore this issue when unemployment numbers were composed of the poor, uneducated and unskilled. However since 1980, every recession has generated unemployment creep upwards from manufacturing, to white collar, to now the executive suite.
This has resulted in a substantial ongoing dislocation of the socioeconomic structure of the US population . Today the 12+ million "officially" out of work is about the size of Illinois and that fails to account for the underemployed and those not looking. At the same time, the employment agency, Manpower, reports that 75% of its revenues are now from outside the USA. In America, we know where the jobs have gone and continue to go-- elsewhere.
But that begs the question as there still won't be enough work to go around worldwide with an emerging, educated, skilled, global middle class. Are we entitled to earn a working living at the expense of another somewhere in the world? Doesn't everyone deserve the opportunity to make a contribution and be paid for doing it?
The essence of work is contribution. You do a day's labor and are paid a living wage. But what if there is not enough work to go around anymore? Does that mean that those that want to work and can't find it are facing life as an underclass of people who are going without the basic necessities of survival, and are deprived of being contributing members of society?
Will work, especially highly skilled, intellectual work, become an entitlement or privilege? Wherever you are in the world, you got your job because of a set of advantages. Call it luck, fate, geography, position, status, connections, or price-point. The others who missed out on the opportunity didn't quite have your unique set of advantages but they were just as smart, talented, hard-working, earnest and yet unemployed.
To the Privileged Go the Jobs
The top ten richest people in India are from family owned companies. The people at the top of those companies are continuing a dynasty of privileged executives. Dynasties of leadership and power from established wealth continues to expand worldwide. The forestalling of upward career mobility implies concurrent economic stagnation for middle and lower classes. Dynasties at the top mirror the same at the bottom regardless of the willingness of those at the bottom to strive above and beyond their economic class. Will the coal miner's son always be a coal miner too in the 21st century?
According to Bloomberg:
Singapore will cut salaries for its prime minister and top office holders after voter unhappiness over a widening income gap weakened support for the ruling party in last year’s elections. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s annual income will fall 36 percent to S$2.2 million ($1.7 million) while the president’s compensation would be reduced 51 percent to S$1.54 million.
In an interview on BBC, the Prime Minister of Singapore argued that organizations have to "pay competitively and pay commensurate with the position." But, is that true only because the people at the top determine and set their own wages with no significant interference from those beneath them? Obviously when people get to vote on it, those at the top get a pay cut.
Work is Not for Everyone, Everywhere
Job creation going forward will be regionally unequal, unbalanced, and unfair. The statistics substantiate this For example Turkey, with twice the population of California, grew 3.4 million jobs in the last 5 years while California remains among the highest in US unemployment at 10+percent. Singapore is the 2nd biggest gambling mecca in the world (after Las Vegas with 20%+ unemployment) and has 15% of its households with $1M in assets.
Emerging markets are taking the lion’s share of manufacturing and skilled worker positions because of the inequities of economic standards. The USA and Western nations will have large and sustained unemployment numbers with stagnating or lowered wages for years to come until the living standards and salaries of emerging markets catch up.
Will China eventually stop its sweat shop, camp-living production factories that have created a workforce of national indentured servants, akin to the European guest workers, or the illegal immigrant workforce in the USA? With gross inequities of pay scales worldwide, the jobs will go where the salaries are the lowest.
Do we have a right to work? Don't we tie basic survival rights to everyone's ability to pay for them? Isn't that why they call it "earning a living"?
In the 21st century, can a civil society require a portion of the populace go without the basic necessities of life, and be deprived of opportunity because there is not enough work to go around?
If not, then where does the money come from to ensure that everyone has food, clothing, shelter, basic medicine, a decent education, and an eventual shot at a job?
Who pays for that?
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