Twenty years ago Mr. Charles Handy wrote a book about change and in it he used some of the data published some years before his book came out. One of this data listed statistics about education of young people in 1988. In that OECD stats Great Britain placed 16th in the “…league table of young people in education after 16 years of age – above only Portugal and Spain.” (C. Handy, “The Age of Unreason” p. 29, Arrow Books, 1991). Now fast forward to today and see where the Britain, Spain and Portugal are economically. I wonder how Greece fared in those same statistics.
In one of my previous posts I said that jobs are out there, we just have to find them, as they are different to those we are (or were) used to. In the age of knowledge worker of Mr. Drucker, people need to have proper knowledge in order to participate in the job market. They need to be educated in right disciplines plus they must have human properties making them suitable for service jobs. If you will greatly simplify, you can cut the job market into those major categories: scientists and their helpers (those are people coming up with things); producers (including farmers and all workers producing things for us such as candy, bread, cars and airplanes); administration (all governmental jobs including Mr. President) and service sector. All of those have changed not only in their relative size – more percentage of people work in service then in all of them combined now – but also in demand all those jobs place on our intelligence, skills and training. That is why people who have chosen wrong subject of their studies years ago are now without work. In other words, you may be a master in coal excavation, but no one will employ you. Or you may be a bachelor in software development and you will get only a medium wage boring job, because there is a lot people like you out there.
It also so happens that jobs which are available demand high specialisation and great level of education, which (without offending anyone’s intelligence) not many of us can achieve. That is why there are a lot of educated people without work, and there is work available without people qualified enough to take it. That is one side of it. The other is that some of the people in positions of power given to them by their skills, jobs and ability, can abuse that power for their own gains. They can come up with schemes lesser people will not understand well enough to be able to stop them. Look at the crisis from few years ago and complicated financial instruments which were devised and abused by few, but not understood by many.
The third consequence is that whenever a financial crisis happens, we are so affected by it – service jobs are the first to get hurt, as people normally spending their income to get the service spend less because of the crisis. That starts a deadly spiral, and we all get hurt a lot more than it was the case when majority of the jobs were in manufacturing.
All I wrote above is not new. Ideas are coming from the book written 20 years ago, but as usual, no one listened. We know why things happen, but no one told us what to do about it. I don’t believe any great writer or thinker can change the way things are right now, no matter how right and revolutionary his ideas are going to be. For me, a non-economist, non-specialist person, obvious thing to do is that we need to keep the demand for services high. Secondly, we need to make sure that service providers are quick enough in adaptation, as services demanded today may be not needed tomorrow because of many reasons. Therefore education should go towards teaching not one, but a few skills including quick adaptation. Having enough of those skills could give us a cushion to fall onto in case of problems in our main area of specialisation. In other words, we would need to replace the age of specialisation with age of multi-specialisation. I have no idea if that would solve our problems, but here I count on scientists and their helpers – at least those ones with proper set of values.