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09/08/11
The Future of Work and Jobs
Filed under: Education and Jobs
Posted by: Tom @ 1:41 pm

It surprises me that people who lose their jobs think that they will get rehired as soon as the economy improves. Such an expectation is unrealistic and politicians should not give them false hope.  Their jobs have either been automated out of existence or they have been outsourced to an area with much lower labor costs.  When companies need more workers, they may need different skills or will find contractors and part-time, entry-level employees who work for less money and are not eligible for costly benefits.  If things work out, fine, otherwise it is on to the next candidate with no strings attached and no legal hassles.

The Industrial Revolution brought increased productivity that could usually be absorbed in a growing, manufacturing economy.  This was especially true for products where demand was relatively inelastic.  After all, some products are needed no matter how good or bad an economy is.  Until computers were introduced to more and more processes, an unskilled workforce took the brunt of any force reduction and reduced demand was a good excuse to eliminate outdated facilities and those with unneeded skills. 

Today, things are different.  Computers are replacing labor everywhere.   They are doing things that were unheard of only a short time ago.  Smart attendants are programmed to talk to us, answer our questions and solve our problems.  They are handling more and more complex tasks as companies pick the brains of highly skilled professionals before they retire and program computers with their expertise.   They precisely control machinery that provides superior dexterity to even perform heart surgery.  Soon robots will be doing our bidding and taking care of us in our old age.

There are exceptions to every rule.  What remains to be seen is how people will respond to computers and foreign outsourcers taking their jobs.  One interesting sign is that some recent law school graduates are suing their schools because they had been assured of jobs that did not materialize.  Perhaps it is because of Legal Zoom and the entry level legal work that is being outsourced to countries such as India.  One thing is certain.  If people are encouraged to pursue jobs in healthcare that are growing in number due to an aging population, they will be disappointed if robots become commonplace.

We believe that people who expect jobs should consider business startups.  Innovation is likely to bring new and different types of work.  It is certain that computers will continue to reduce the ranks of those with traditional jobs so it is important not to get caught in a trap with the masses.  Understanding what is needed and how it is done is always important.  As computers become more and more self-programable, anyone with the know-how should be able to boss them around.    

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