Time in Grade

It seems that is takes working for a whole career to gain a perspective on business and economic dynamics.  When I was younger I believed that increases in productivity would lead to higher pay and less hours worked.  While productivity has climbed at a dizzying rate, pay relative to inflation has not grown and one could argue declined, and the average work week has increased.  The myth of 40 hours for professional employees has long been dismissed if you want to be successful.

This has happened throughout all levels of jobs from professional engineers, accountants, etc. to the burger slingers at your local fast food restaurant.  And it is particularly bad in the service industry.  Manufacturing job have left the country.  Customer service jobs have left.  Engineering jobs are leaving.

Globalization has many good qualities.  It is spreading the wealth to the developing countries.  Once it was Japan, more recently India and China.  In the future it might be Africa, South America.  Who knows for sure.  The Internet has made it easier to do jobs remotely.

Automation has also contributed significantly to the decline of well paying jobs in the US.  And there is certainly more of that in our future.  Self-driving cars will eliminate entire industries of jobs: truck drivers, FedEx drivers, taxi drivers, Uber, and the like.

Automation is a major driver behind productivity.  We may eventually reach a point where robots do almost all jobs.  What then?  Where’s the earning power?  The buying power?  Is the future we are headed create a greater split between the haves and the have-nots?


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