More Details on U.S. and Other Countries’ Worker Shortages

This blog already has discussed the current declining and aging populations of many countries, and their impact on employment in those countries. [1]

Here are some additional articles on these subjects.

Wall Street Journal Analysis [2]

“Employers in healthcare, education, leisure and hospitality and other services such as dry cleaning and automotive repair . . . [accounted] for 63% of all [recent U.S,] private-sector job gains. .. . In January alone, restaurants and bars added a seasonally adjusted 99,000 jobs. The healthcare industry grew by 58,000, and retailers added 30,000 jobs.”

This result is helped by “more workers . . .searching for jobs: bigger paychecks and benefits, diminishing fear of getting sick, and financial worries amid high inflation.” Also “more women are flowing back into the labor force, which could help service-sector employers fill positions that traditionally have been held by women.”

Increased U.S. Immigration [3]

Last year U.S. net immigration increased by about a million people, and the “foreign-born work force grew much more quickly than the U.S.-born work force.” This “helped power the job recoveries in leisure and hospitality and in construction, where immigrants make up a higher share of employment, and where there were bigger increases in wages and job vacancies.”

This employment result happened despite the inadequate staffing of the U.S. immigration agencies, resulting in huge delays in acting on asylum applications as well as those for green cards and work permits. “One of the few industries with unlimited immigrant visas is agriculture, where the number of guest worker visas “has risen by double-digit percentages over each of the last few years, reaching 371,000 in 2022.”

Difficulties in Raising Birth Rates [4]

Echoing the pessimism of Ross Douthat of the New York Times caused, in part, by China’s recent declining birth rate and population, other Time’s authors say, “History suggests that once a country crosses the threshold of negative population growth, there is little its government can do to reverse it. And as a country’s population grows more top-heavy, a smaller, younger generation bears the increasing costs of caring for a larger, older one. . . . That’s because the playbook for boosting national birthrates is a rather thin one. Most initiatives that encourage families to have more children are expensive, and the results are often limited. Options include cash incentives for having babies, generous parental leave policies and free or subsidized child care.”

This more recent Times article claims, “many young Chinese are not interested in having large families. Vastly more young Chinese people are enrolling in higher education, marrying later and having children later. Raised in single-child households, some have come to see small families as normal. But the bigger impediment to having a second or third child is financial, [and] many parents cite the high cost of housing and education as the main obstacle to having more children.”

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[1]  See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Another Defining Challenge of the 21st Century (Jan. 28, 2023); Skepticism About Douthat’s Defining Challenge of the 21st Century (Jan. 30, 2023); Comment: Developments in Africa and Italy Accentuate Douthat’s Concerns (Jan. 31, 2023); Iowa State Government Encouraging Refugee and Migrant Resettlement (Feb. 3, 2023);Comment: National Worker Shortages in U.S. (Feb. 3, 2023); Economists Surprised by January’s  New Jobs Data (Feb. 4, 2023); Sub-Saharan Africa Is ‘New Epicenter’ of Extremism, Says UN,  (Feb. 8, 2023); Migrant Workers Being Paid Premium Wages in U.S. Tight Labor Market, (Feb. 8, 2023).

[2]  Cambon & Smith, Mass Layoffs or Hiring Boom? What’s Actually Happening in the Jobs Market, W.S.J. (Feb. 9, 2023).

[3] DePills, Immigration Rebound Eases Shortage of Workers, Up to a Point, N.Y. Times (Feb. 6, 2023).

[4] Jacobs & Paris, Can China Reverse Its Population Decline? Just Ask Sweden, N.Y. Times (Feb. 9, 2023).

 

 

Pandemic Journal (# 32): Another Vision of the New Normal  

Whenever we in the U.S. and elsewhere are able safely to leave the restrictions of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we, in my opinion, will not return to what we regarded as “normal” before this pandemic. Nor do we know what the “new normal” will be. A previous post discussed noted commentator Fareed Zakaria’s opinion on this subject.[1]

Now we look at another vision of the new normal from Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, author and native Minnesotan.[2]

He opens with this blockbuster, “When we emerge from this corona crisis, we’re going to be greeted with one of the most profound eras of Schumpeterian creative destruction ever — which this pandemic is both accelerating and disguising.” Indeed, “No job, no K-12 school, no university, no factory, no office will be spared. And it will touch both white-collar and blue-collar workers, which is why this election matters so much. How we provide more Americans with portable health care, portable pensions and opportunities for lifelong learning to get the most out of this moment and cushion the worst is what politics needs to be about after Nov. 3 — or we’re really headed for instability.”[3]

“The reason the post-pandemic era will be so destructive and creative is that never have more people had access to so many cheap tools of innovation, never have more people had access to high-powered, inexpensive computing, never have more people had access to such cheap credit — virtually free money — to invent new products and services, all as so many big health, social, environmental and economic problems need solving.”

Friedman gains support for these startling predictions from Ravi Kumar, the president of Infosys, an Indian tech services company with his office in New York City and corporate headquarters in Bangalore.

According to Kumar, “the Industrial Revolution produced a world in which there were sharp distinctions between employers and employees, between educators and employers and between governments and employers and educators, ‘but now you’re going to see a blurring of all these lines.’”

“Because the pace of technological change, digitization and globalization just keeps accelerating, two things are happening at once: the world is being knit together more tightly than ever . . . and ‘the half-life of skills is steadily shrinking.’ As a result, whatever skill you possess today is being made obsolete faster and faster.”

Therefore, “the most critical role for K-12 educators . . . will be to equip young people with the curiosity and passion to be lifelong learners who feel ownership over their education. . . . self-motivation to be a lifelong learner will be paramount.”

Moreover, “explained Kumar, accelerations in digitization and globalization are steadily making more work ‘modular,’’ broken up into small packets that are farmed out by companies. Companies, he argues, will increasingly become platforms that synthesize and orchestrate these modular packets to make products and services.”

“Kumar added, ‘work will increasingly get disconnected from companies, and jobs and work will increasingly get disconnected from each other.’’ Some work will be done by machines; some will require your physical proximity in an office or a factory; some will be done remotely; and some will be just a piece of a task that can also be farmed out to anyone, anywhere.”

These changes will enable “many more diverse groups of people — those living in rural areas, minorities, stay-at-home moms and dads and those with disabilities — . . . to compete for it from their homes.”

All of these changes are “already having a big impact on education. ‘We have started hiring many people with no degrees,’’ explained Kumar. ‘If you know stuff and can demonstrate that you know stuff and have been upskilling yourself with online training to do the task that we need, you’re hired. We think this structural shift — from degrees to skills — could bridge the digital divide as the cost of undergraduate education has increased by 150 percent over the last 20 years.’’’

Today Kumar’s company, Infosys, “is not looking just for ‘problem solvers,’ he says, but ‘problem-finders,’  people with diverse interests — art, literature, science, anthropology — who can identify things that people want before people even know they want them.”

Kumar also claims, ‘We’re seeing the democratization of software — the consumers can now be the creators.’ It shows you how AI will take away jobs of the past, while it creates jobs of the future.”

Significant changes are in store for postsecondary education. According to Kumar, it “will be a hybrid ecosystem of company platforms, colleges and local schools, whose goal will be to create the opportunity for lifelong ‘radical reskilling.’” Already some companies like Infosys, IBM and AT&T are “creating cutting-edge in-house universities that partner with traditional universities and even high schools.

Conclusion

 Wow! What a lot of thoughts to ponder and evaluate! Comments with informed reactions to this Friedman column are encouraged.

As a retired, older individual, I have mixed reactions. On the one hand, I am glad that I will not have to face these changes in my own life. On the other hand, I regret not being able to be around for many more years to help in some small ways society, my sons and grandchildren cope with these challenges.

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[1] Pandemic Journal (#31): What Will Be the New Normal?, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 6, 2020).

[2] Friedman, After the Pandemic, a Revolution in Education and Work Awaits, N.Y. Times (Oct. 20, 2020)

[3] This Friedman passage refers to the famous concept of “creative destruction” by Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950), an Austrian political economist, who emigrated to the U.S. to become a professor at Harvard University. His 1942 book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, argued that capitalistic economies proceeded by creative new processes, products and structures that destroyed the preceding ones. (See Joseph Schumpeter, Wikipedia; Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Wikipedia; Creative destruction, Wikipedia.