Monday, 30 January 2012

Jobs, growth, doom!

This is a reply I made to John Redwood's Diary today. 12 or more hours later, it's not been passed by a moderator, though lots of others have. Given the crap spouted after the EU summit today, I think it's a debate we should be having.

I’m slowly becoming convinced that full or low unemployment is almost impossible to achieve in the post-automation age. There are very few labour-intensive industries any more, and those that do exist have moved to developing countries where labour costs are much lower.

All parties seem to focus on economic growth as the answer to provide jobs, but at the growth after the 80s recession showed, modern economic growth is achievable with low job growth – in fact is more likely to be employment light.

It only seems logical to me – think of all the industries that have either moved overseas or slimmed dramatically in respect of workforces – shipbuilding, car manufacturing for example. My career was largely in electronic engineering, and even that highly skilled occupation has changed dramatically with design automation and high levels of integration reducing the number of designers needed. Drawing offices have largely disappeared, secretarial and administrative roles have shrunk through the use of computers. Even IT work has been deskilled and wages contrained – and this was heralded as one of the new golden opportunities we should be training people for. The time that the shrinkage in good jobs started to show itself was masked by the rapid growth in public sector employment in the late 90s and early this century.

I simply can’t see where mass jobs are going to come from other than in low paid, low skilled service sector roles. It comes to something when the BBC heralds as good news that MacDonalds are planning to create thousands of new jobs!

Surely the only way to address the future is for a complete shift in our political models that plans for a society that will never have full employment, where business and growth is capital intensive rather than labour intensive?

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