I worry about the economy. Will our lost jobs come back? Probably not.
The bad economy is one reason jobs have left–but it’s not the only reason. There just aren’t as many reasons to employ people when you can get machines or even the customer himself to do the work for you.
Look at all the jobs that used to exist but no longer do. There are the obvious customer service agents replaced by voice prompts and recognition. Checkouts at the supermarket and hardware store now self serve. The gas station too. Monday, my co-worker Ann Nyberg showed me a photo of a ‘helpless’ Dunkin’ Donuts inside a grocery store.
No one wants employees if they can avoid
them us. We are a pain in the ass. We are expensive, temperamental and prone to break down. We form unions. We kvetch. We need to be managed.
Businesses like Google where the cashflow overwhelms the staffing requirements are the goal.
When was the last time you heard an entrepreneur with a business model that was labor intensive? It’s been a long time.
What was a department store is now Wal*Mart, Target or BJs. There’s a fraction of the staff. And we’re only seeing the front of the store. Every economy of scale is a reason for fewer people.
The 20th Century might have been the century of the employee, a time when the worker did well. The 20th Century, it can be argued, was the worker’s shining moment.
Not so the 21st! Our notions about hard work and a good life have disconnected.
In the past as labor saving devices came on line workers and their bosses benefited. Now only companies benefit from increased productivity. And, the job market is so unbalanced there is no leverage for most workers. It’s tough to see the playing field evened for a long time to come.