The 11.8 million U.S. unemployed discards those who’ve outrun their benefits and given up; these are the folk who’ve been working until recently and need jobs. Our government and the newsfolk refer to this as a recovery, but we should note that these are pretty much the same numbers that earlier, were described as a recession. I guess that a rose by any other name may still have aphids.
This number, forget the 2.9 million more long term out of work cases, seems stuck on permanent; what do they have to look forward to? Especially the young workers and recent college grads, a group with the highest percentages of unemployed. What are the prospects?
Three current reports suggest something that none of the media or government prognosticators have been discussing but something that still fits recent decades of economic U.S. history. They seem to deserve some thought.
The first report carries a potential double impact; it addresses two huge political issues at the same time. We’re conscious of the decline in factory labor that came with mechanization; we’re less conscious of that same impact on agriculture. Note though, that in 1900, some 41% of U.S. labor was agricultural but by 2000, that was down to 1.9%. The mechanization stalled at picking fresh fruit and vegetables for market, providing a stable need for farm field labor that has contributed to the U.S. immigration problem. Now, the machines may be coming to replace them, too. The Lettuce Bot under development picks fresh lettuce for market; no field labor needed. And it’s only one of several such projects.
It’s not only farms that are following the factories out of the labor market; we may also read about the Burger Bot, which replaces the entire kitchen in fast food restaurants. In essence, it’s a vending machine that prepares and serves gourmet burgers untouched, as they used to say, by human hands. And fast food joints are another bastion of ‘work Americans won’t do.’ As this advancing mechanization proceeds, how many low-skill immigrants are going to be needed? How many recent liberal arts majors, for that matter… And these machines aren’t just a gleam in some engineer’s eye; they’re developed, built and undergoing final testing and early market preparation. They’re real. So, what do you suppose those 10 or 12 or whatever million illegals are going to do? Or all those liberal arts majors, our next generation? And there’s more, a current third report.
This one isn’t another bot. It’s more of a ‘but’. See, this wonderfully computerized, mechanized world we’re setting up is going to need a lot of skilled operators and maintainers and designers and software writers and engineers and our schools are under-producing the Advanced Degrees such people require. We’re now hiring them from abroad. Seems that among American workers aged 55 to 65, the U.S. stands at third in the world for the number of workers with advanced degrees…highly skilled and professional. But if you look at those between 25 and 35 years old, the U.S. ranks only 16th in the world. That’s a trend going in the wrong direction, apparently a result of inadequately prepared high school grads who can’t cut it when they get to college.
So it seems we may have solved our illegal immigration problem by eliminating the work, but we’re growing a whole crop of citizens with a similar skill level to replace those illegal immigrants. What are they going to do for a living, when the machine will hand you your fries?