by Ken Vincent, Featured Contributor
WE CONTINUE to be bombarded with written and verbal reports of how the “good job market” is shrinking, and how the hi tech revolution is replacing good jobs with computerized and robotic functions. Middle class and young graduates are having to work at fast food outlets and in retail for minimum wage.
I agree that many jobs are becoming outdated and that is causing considerable upheaval in society. But we should recall that it isn’t the first time this has happened. One only has to look back some 200 years to the industrial revolution to see the same conditions and worse. Steam power replaced sail, and horse power. With new machinery more food could be grown with less manual labor. At the same time the new factories in cities were clamoring for help. This caused a massive migration from rural areas to cities and those migrants had no job skills that were needed in the factories. These people could herd sheep, milk cows, plant and reap crops, but knew nothing about making or maintaining, or operating machinery. Slums exploded, people were hungry, and there were few safety net programs for them to fall back on.
Fast forward to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Virtually every new invention of the time caused a loss of jobs and in some cases entire industries. The telephone, electricity, indoor plumbing, central heat, elevators, gasoline refining, Ford’s assembly line process, and the combustion engine. The list would be extensive. Again their was a massive shift in the types of jobs and skills and there was a lot of pain and down time in adapting.
Yes, we are going through another radical revolution in the job market. Yes there will be winners and losers, and yes there will be pain and suffering. But society will eventually adapt as it always has. Those displaced welders on the auto assembly line will learn how to maintain those new robotic welding machines. Those people that checked you out at the grocery will learn how to program the self check out machines and so the commercial life again evolves.
Perhaps the good news is that these massive upheavals in the job market seem to happen only about every 100 years. Thus, those going through that pain now won’t have to worry about doing it again.