Notes from Books About Jobs and Work

Highlights from a recent stack of books I’ve been reading.

From The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton:

Of the 7 billion people on Earth, there are 5 billion adults aged 15 and older. Of these 5 billion, 3 billion tell Gallup they work or want to work. Most of these people need a full-time formal job. The problem is that there are currently only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs in the world. This is a potentially devastating global shortfall of about 1.8 billion good jobs. It means that global unemployment for those seeking a formal good job with a paycheck and 30+ hours of steady work approaches a staggering 50%, with 10% wanting part-time work…Until rather recently in human evolution, explorers were looking for new hunting grounds, cropland, territories, passageways, and natural resources. But now, the explorers are seeking something else.

From Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford:

We are experiencing a genuine crisis of confidence in our most prestigious institutions and professions. This presents an opportunity to reconsider basic assumptions. The question of what a good job looks like — of what sort of work is both secure and worthy of being honored — is more open now than it has been for a long time. Wall Street in particular has lost its luster as a destination for smart and ambitious young people. Out of the current confusion of ideals and confounding of career hopes, a calm recognition may yet emerge that productive labor is the foundation of all prosperity.

From Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, sound advice on how to fuel job growth:

Eliminate or reduce the massive home mortgage subsidy. This costs over $130 billion per year, which would do much more for growth if allocated to research or education. While home ownership has many laudable benefits, it likely reduces labor mobility and economic flexibility, which conflicts with the economy’s increased need for flexibility.

From Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It by Don Peck

Arguably the most important economic trend in the United States over the past couple of generations has been the ever-more-distinct sorting of Americans into winners and losers, and the slow hollowing of the middle class….

Women’s growing success in the classroom and workforce is of course a cause for celebration. But the failure of many men to adapt to a postindustrial economy is worrying. The economy appears to be evolving in a way that is ill-suited to many men—at least outside the economy’s upper echelons. Men’s struggles are hardly evident in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street. But they’re hard to miss in foundering blue-collar and low-end service communities across the country.

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