Maybe this is a blinding flash of the obvious. But no job is sacred anymore. While politicians argue and evangelize about their plan to create jobs or how pathetic the other party’s plan is, the truth is that new jobs are being created every day. But unlike job creation in the past, one new job might replace 10 old ones thanks to technology, outsourcing, and automation…and that scenario isn’t going to change anytime soon. What happens if we don’t need as many jobs as the economists predict and politicians promise?
The bottom line is we simply don’t need as many jobs as we used to. New jobs and reengineered ones with the right people in place can accomplish the equivalent of what used to take many more workers, often in less time and with fewer resources. The repeated reference to the government funding massive infrastructure projects to generate new jobs serves as a terrifying reminder that our leaders still don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong – we need infrastructure improvements badly. I’m all for supporting projects that will improve our highways, bridges, schools, and power grid. But we can’t just duplicate what FDR did in the 1930s when thousands of men were recruited to build highways, building, and dams. They were handed picks and shovels, tents and food and started digging and building. Today one worker armed with technology and heavy equipment might do the job of ten men. It has been estimated that to create enough jobs to reach full employment might require the creation of ten times more jobs that was created following the Great Depression. And even if all those jobs were created, the search for skilled workers to fill them would be a daunting task.
The changes in the skill requirements for these new jobs are dramatic. Workers who used to own the job yesterday don’t have the skills to do what is required today. In essence, new technology is destroying old job and the new ones rising from the ashes are very different even if the titles are the same.