There has been a long term trend of increased competition for employment opportunities. There are fluctuations in it like the dotcom bubble and the great recession, but overall the situation gets progressively worse. Technology is one of the few sectors that shows a significant increase in jobs with many of them offering attractive pay. Many people are focusing on this as the great hope of the future. Actually the picture is considerably more complicated than that. Depending on how you classify tech jobs they presently employ about 10-12% of the US workforce. The products and services that are being created are actually reducing employment in other sectors of the economy. As the push for developments in robotics gains force, this is a trend that is accelerating.
A critical question is just who is going to get the jobs building and programming the robots. The US tech industry has long maintained that they face great difficulty in finding people with the right skills to fill vacancies. This has led to the controversial H1B visa program that allows them to bring in migrant workers from abroad. Among the requirements for this they are supposed to demonstrate that they have made an effort to recruit US workers for the position and that the migrant workers are being paid prevailing wages. There are recurring accusations that it is all a dodge to cut wages. Nobody ever seems willing to put facts and figures on the table that would allow a serious exploration of the issue.
This controversy is not unique to the US. The New York Time has an article on the situation in Europe.
After a five-year economic crisis, the mismatch represents one of the thorniest problems facing Ireland and many other European countries. Hundreds of thousands of people who lost work, and many young people entering the work force, are finding that their skills are ill suited to a huge crop of innovation-based jobs springing up across the Continent.This is another saga in the ongoing story of globalization. Tech jobs are never going to employ vast numbers of people. Those that pay well require a high level of skill and ability. How do people go about acquiring those skills and how do they get the jobs. In the US tech jobs are strongly dominated by white and Asian young males. There are recurring calls to promote diversity, but not a lot has happened about it.
“In all countries, there is an expectation that many of the new jobs created will be in the knowledge-intensive economy,” said Glenda Quintini, a senior labor economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “But we are seeing a worrisome skills mismatch that means a large number of unemployed people are not well prepared for the pool of jobs opening up.”
Employers have long complained that graduates do not have the skills they need. But in a recent report, the International Labor Organization warned that “skills mismatches and occupational shifts have worsened” in Europe in the wake of the crisis. People laid off in hard-hit sectors, from construction to finance, face lengthy retraining, while too few graduates entering the job market have chosen engineering, science or technology degrees for the growing innovation-based jobs market.
Private industry is not looking for people who might have the potential to do the jobs if they were given training. They would like to hire people who are at a level where they can walk in the door and become immediately productive. There is often a large gap between the skills provided in academic institutions and trade schools and what is happening in the fast moving world of technology. The women and non-Asian minorities who do manage to get a foot in the door often complain about an environment which they experience as being unwelcoming.
Countries such as China and India have made concerted efforts to provide up to date technology training in their drives to move their industrial sector up the economic feeding chain. This has produced a growing group of people available to compete in the US and Europe. Of course the way that technology persist in changing the world it is becoming easier for them to perform useful services over the internet while staying put where they are.
We have a situation in the US of a large pool of young people who have followed the dictum that a college education is the key to the American dream. They got one by incurring sizable amounts of student debt. They now have no job or one that represents serious under employment. We have industries that say they have job vacancies that they can't fill because of a lack of qualified workers. Something is wrong with this picture.