When work disappears

When Work Disappears for all but the well-educated elite, what happens to society? asks Megan McArdle in The Daily Beast.

In much of the industrial world, it seems to be increasingly difficult for people to earn a decent living without a fairly elite set of skills . . .

It’s impossible to look at what’s happening to the bottom half of American society and not worry.  Some of the breakdown is cultural–a fraying of the basic ties that keep people connected and cared for.  Some of it is economic, the disappearance of steady employment that allows people to do the bourgeois work of planning for the future.  And in some ways, those trends are reinforcing each other.  A community cannot insist that its members work hard and plan for the future if there are no jobs available; the resulting erosion of work and education ethics makes unemployment worse.

Education — sending more kids to college, retraining people for new jobs –no longer seems to be the solution, she writes.  College graduates are having trouble finding “solid employment.” Instead of making the workforce more productive, “we may just be forcing people to jump over a higher bar to gain access to a shrinking number of jobs.”

George Will also worries about the growing educational and economic divide.

Today, the dominant distinction defining socioeconomic class is between those with and without college degrees. Graduates earn 70 percent more than those with only high school diplomas. In 1980, the difference was just 30 percent.

Soon the crucial distinction will be between those with meaningful college degrees and those with worthless ones.

Education may not be the great equalizer, Will writes.  “Jerry Z. Muller, a Catholic University historian, argued in the March-April 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs that expanding equality of opportunity increases inequality because some people are simply better able than others to exploit opportunities. “

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON June 21, 2013

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When work disappears — Joanne Jacobs

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