For all the hoopla and high five’s for the lowering of the unemployment figures, the figures paint a distorted picture. Anecdotal
stories and manipulation of the employment figures paint a picture of continual shrinkage in the workforce.
Manipulation of the work week can be seen where high tech employees are glued to their jobs and are transported via the company bus to their home base in San Francisco in the dark of night with the glow of laptops working away both to and from their company campus or employees allowed to work no more than 30 hours a week so they will not qualify for benefits. Both of these behaviors are signs that the work week has changed in America. The relentless push to automate will continuously squeeze more work from fewer workers.
Employers will increasingly replace low-skilled workers with technology. Even law clerks are being replaced by data software programs doing their jobs. Mobile devices are reducing the need for cashiers. Self-serve kiosks with touch screens inside of Target and other department stores have replaced the need for clerks and sales assistants. We now can check in our bags at airline counters, check ourselves out of parking lots, check our blood pressure at the pharmacy, bank online, use ATM machines, check ourselves out at the grocery store, scan prices, automated farm equipment picks our fruits and vegetables, robotic packers cut down the need for workers at warehouses and shipping centers, mobile device coupons instead of paper coupons for shopping and thousands of other examples of automation are here. Except for very select occupations such as petroleum engineers (good high salaries here) computer mobile device software, high tech medical devices and other high-tech manufacturing, the workforce is not growing.
We can have huge profits in companies, returning American companies (re-shoring) to manufacture in America but we still have a shrinking workforce overall. Bright spot areas are in robotics, 3-D printing and medical devices. The long and short of it is that the worker is relentlessly being replaced by technology. The unions are hanging on to dear life to prevent too much automation (see stories on the post office) but it is a force that cannot be stopped. In the near future we will have “smart” cars that will park themselves. This alone will change the structure of parking garages, parking tickets and valets. We already have robots that monitor patients in emergency and intensive care rooms. Nursing homes have small baby seal faced robots to help calm dementia patients.
The question we need to address is what do with we do with the “waiting worker, the underemployed worker and the worker doing two 30 hour week jobs just to make the same amount of money–maybe–as one job. To my knowledge no one in Washington DC or at state capitols is addressing this elephant in the room
America will have to address this growing class–or what is being called the “third economy or the social economy”. Will we eventually replace government workers with volunteers who receive tax deductions for volunteering? There is a huge population in America waiting to be recognized. They will not work again in the old economy, the old economy is on its death bed. What will it look like with increased technology and a worker-less society?