October 21, 2013
What I'm reading: America's relevant skill shortage
Journalists Fareed Zakaria, Jason Miks
“For a long time, ‘because the American people were the most educated in the world, they were in the best position to invent, be entrepreneurial, and produce goods and services using advanced technologies,’ Harvard professors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz assert in their 2008 book, The Race Between Education and Technology,” writes Rick Wartzman in American Prospect.
“For those born from the 1870s until about 1950, the authors found, every decade witnessed an uptick of about 0.8 years of education. In other words, ‘during that 80-year period the vast majority of parents had children whose educational attainment greatly exceeded theirs.’ But then something happened: ‘Educational change between the generations … came to an abrupt standstill.’"
”The timing couldn’t have been worse. To perform practically any function in the Skechers warehouse, ‘you need to use a computer...‘It takes new skills.’ Yet relatively few people have them. Even fewer are prepared for the kinds of jobs that may come next."
“During China’s demographic explosion, maintaining job growth was the government’s paramount priority,” write Damian Ma and William Adams inForeign Affairs. “Occupational safety, collective bargaining rights, and other costly labor protections were vastly less important, and summarily ignored. That started to change a little with the Chinese Labor Contract Law of 2008, the centerpiece of a stronger labor regulatory package that increased worker protections against layoffs, obliged employers to negotiate with the party-controlled unions over pay rates and benefits, and provided workers with new avenues to defend their rights against employers in courts.
“Fully enforced, the regulation’s provisions were estimated to increase the cost of employing Chinese workers by some 10–20 percent. But at the time the law was enacted, no one gave that much thought. After all, there were still nearly 200 million migrants in the cities and millions more waiting to move off farms. As long as the supply remained abundant, the employer’s paradise would endure. By 2010, however, cracks were starting to show.”
“Predicting the decline of the United States has always been risky business. In the 1970s and late 1980s, expectations of waning power were followed by periods of geopolitical resurgence,” write Ely Ratner and Thomas Wright in theWashington Post.
"There’s every reason to believe that cycle is recurring today. Despite gridlock in Washington, America is recovering from the financial crisis and combining enduring strengths with new sources of influence, including energy. Meanwhile, emerging powers are running into troubles of their own. Taken together, these developments are ushering in a new era of American strategic advantage."