Archive for June, 2013

Young People Trying to Become Adults Without Steady Work

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

It is not the shop floor, but rather the struggle to come to terms with its disappearance that characterizes their life-worlds  …….  they anchor their lives in self-management amid the insecurity of the service sector and the fragility of personal relationships and public commitments it creates …. In an era of short-term flexibility, constant flux, and hollow institutions, their transition to adulthood has become inverted; coming of age does not entail entry into social groups and institutions, but rather the explicit rejection of them ….. they feel completely alone, responsible for their own fates and dependent on outside help only at their peril.”

This is from Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in the Age of Uncertainty, a new – and excellent – book by Jennifer Silva which chronicles what the erosion of steady work is doing to our society. Silva interviewed 100 young Americans from working-class families: it’s hardly a stretch to assume that the emotional pain and short-circuited lives she chronicles is experienced by many more young people, including those from less challenged family environments, across the US and Canada.

Silva wrote an Op-Ed piece for last Sunday’s New York Times, Young and Isolated.  At a minimum, read this.

Steady work may not be everything in life, but as Jennifer Silva convincingly argues (to a conclusion I obviously share), young people can’t build much of a life without it.

Fascinating Reading on Employment and Technological Change

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

   Just posted …. the nicely-edited transcript of the Cornell RoundTable on Employment and Technology that I was part of last month in New York City.  It’s a very interesting – but very quick and tightly focused – read. Pages 1 through 13 will keep you entranced over a cup of coffee.

  The astonishingly wide diversity of opinions (on what is now the commonplace assumption that technology is causing a massive “gutting” of the employment pool) was a surprise to most who attended.

   We’ve just come to accept that jobs of all kinds are being eliminated by new technologies, IT advance, etc. and that there are no realistic strategies to shape that seemingly-inevitable trajectory.

 As Harry Katz, Dean of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says in his introduction:

   “This round table brought together 40 of America’s leading economists, policy makers, engineers, academics, corporate executives, social scientists, philanthropists, journalists and statisticians. (see list.)

  It was a day full of agreement, fervently diverse opinions and insights – notably that most participants had never before discussed these issues with such a varied group of stakeholders and that the country’s best hope for reaping widespread gains from technological progress rests on continuing and expanding such discourse.”