Saturday, November 08, 2003

>> The employability deficit

Just read about Dyson profiting from off-shoring jobs to Malaysia, and started to slot everything else in with the future of a global workplace.

Dyson have kept on their engineers and scientists in Britain, but manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. This seems to be the current trend in general. So what can we expect next?

Firstly, we are now truly seeing an industrial revolution - the era we tradiitonally refer to as the IR was simply fear, an introduction. Now we have the second stage - cheap globalisation techniques that we can combine with a premise of relatively unskilled labour (brought about by more efficient production techniques) to extend the power of the revolution across borders. i.e., out of the realm of localised fear, and into the sphere of anonymous business - the factor of personal arrangements that was inherent in the manufacturing industry up til now has been discarded.

What does this mean? On a global scale, I still think that this is part of the argument for capitalism - standard labour for a cheaper cost (the article compares the high wage rates in Swindon, for instance) means that the product becomes cheaper, companies remain competitive, etc. Thus, anyone that realises that we live in an on-the-whole capitalist system must accept that this progress is surely inevitable.

For those that, until now have come to think of it as a way of life, an infrastructure that defines the way that they live and be, there are many changes coming. Firstly, we are seeing the beginning of a new split in the market - between skilled an unskilled labour. We are now in a transitional phase, where the majority of jobs going overseas are for the un-or-barely-trained. This sets up a gulf back in the areas that previously controlled the unskilled market. I am under the impression that this gulf is going to become far more important than any "information gap", rather this "employability deficit" will serve to polarise the gap between rich and poor within developed countries. Those with the skills get the jobs and the money, while those without must increasingly rely upon the state. This, naturally, depends upon the role of the state - if it is in the hands of the rich, then the gap will incresae. If it caters for the poor, then perhaps there is hope.

Either way, it becomes clear that in order to prevent imbalance in the system, the role of universal education becomes more and more important. Those that go through higher education will become more employable than those who don't, simply because it acts as a stepladder into the jobs that exist. Currently, there is some truth to the opinion that 3 years in the industry can serve as beneficial to a career as 3 years in education, if not more so. However, as the range of unskilled jobs narrows, so the ability to gain entry into an industry without education becomes less. Hence, as the job landscape shifts upwards, education will become an equaliser. It is for this reason that I think a free and accessible educational system must be offerable to all.

In the longer term, it remains to be seen whether or not capitalisam can work - whether its global tendencies can provide a global hierarchy, rather than a two-tier system that keeps profit in one part of the world, whilst exploiting another.

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