If you’re aged 15 or 50, if you work in retail, restaurants or really anything considered a “middle-class” job – you need to start panicking, like now…
You might be asking why, and here’s the long answer… The really long answer.
Our economy dictates that corporations, especially public ones, need to put shareholders first. This basically means that if a company isn’t trying to increase their stock price, or their income, then they run the risk of failure. This inherent drive to constantly and consistently increase profits, combined with the advancements we are making with technology, means that any job that is capable of being replaced with an iPad, will be (or the company will probably cease to exist). You might scoff at the notion that your barista, or your regular server, or your box-office ticket salesperson could ever be replaced by a touchscreen, but if you look hard enough you’ll begin to realize that this is already happening everywhere. Cineplex Odeon greets their guests with rows of touchscreen ticket booths, stores everywhere are creating self check-out lanes, and some restaurants even have conveyor belts that bring your food right to your table (after you order from your iPad of course). As technology becomes cheaper and minimum wages begin to increase, corporations will increasingly take advantage of these small investments to essentially remove the increasing costs of paying wages to humans – reducing their expenses, thereby increasing their profits and keeping their wealthy investors happy.
Hopefully by now you’re thinking, “holy crap, now I have to get another job” or “where is my child going to work?” because these questions highlight some serious issues occurring in our society today. The first is the issue of education and how our government, and in turn our citizens, relatively value education. The second issue is our current job market (or lack thereof). And finally the most important issue is that of the inherent need for earnings growth that is necessary for our economic system (capitalism), and in turn our corporations, to survive.
I’ve broken down these issues to try to explain them to the best of my ability.
Education is a tool that citizens use to escape poverty, because an educated citizen is supposedly more able to complete more complicated tasks. A friend of mine once explained to me his theory of how our education system taught us how to become workers, rather than citizens. His evidence was quite rightly justified in our behaviour towards those who reveal their degrees were in something “less useful” (like history, Canadian studies, or English). I am continuously finding myself hearing about how people don’t feel prepared for real life, how they don’t know how to do their taxes or fix their car, how they don’t know about loans or contracts, economics or government. Well, this causes us to lose control (or power) over our every-day lives, and alters our behaviour in such a way that allows us to be comfortable with trusting “those that know better” with the responsibilities of which we are uneducated in. This can lead to dangerous consequences, whether it be getting ripped-off by your mechanic, or duped into an unnecessary war in the middle-east.
So, why are we paying so much money to get a post-secondary education when we don’t even learn the “essentials”, and can’t get a job that uses our knowledge afterwards?
Well… that’s what our parents told us we needed to do, because that’s what they did, and look how successful they are, right?! Wrong. That is not the way to justify it. Look at the past, is it written in the history books that it was all sunshine and rainbows, and jobs and money and happiness for all? Hell no, its slavery and genocide and war and atrocity after atrocity. Its depression and recession, its boom and bust – there is no up without a down.
Canadian universities had their funding slashed in the early 1990’s by the federal government’s decision to cut transfer payments to the provinces, this caused universities to restructure in such a way to find funding from other sources. Lets all take a moment to think of a bountiful source of money that universities can leverage to their benefit… Students! Of course! Maybe that’s why by 2017 university tuition in Canada is expected to TRIPLE since 1990. So if university is so expensive, then we should be getting some sweet benefits after we invested so much right? Nope, the annual average unemployment rate in Canada has actually increased from 6.1% to 7.1% since the recession in 2008. A better statistic though is the employment rate in Canada, which has only risen from 59% to 62% from 1991 – 2012. The best statistic though is the employment rate breakdown by age: in 2012 54.5% of Canadians aged 15-24 were employed, compared to 81.6% of 25-44 year olds, and 71.3% of 45-64 year olds. You might read this and think that that looks about right, since there is an aging population in Canada, but these statistics are RATES (not percentages of the total population), they are percentages of each demographic. That means that you only really have about a 50% chance that your degree/diploma/sheet of paper will help you gain employment. Those aren’t the best odds for a 4-year, multi-thousand dollar investment. This has some serious sociological implications. The first being poverty – how can one expect to break the cycle of poverty if one cannot even use education to help raise their income? Secondly, when education is expressly stated to increase your future income it can cause an existential crisis for institutions when there are no jobs to validate this purpose. And lastly, this lack of return on investment helps to ensure that there is a continuing cycle of poverty, and decreases the perceived value of further education in all of our citizens.
So that kinda sucks, but it doesn’t really explain why there aren’t any jobs, I mean it’s not the universities’ fault, is it? Of course not, they don’t employ people.. Oh wait…… Basically there are no jobs because of two issues that compound to make one big storm. The first is that capitalism sucks, and we’re currently in a state of Neoliberalism; the second is that technology is advancing so quickly that it is becoming cheaper and cheaper to integrate into any business. So what’s Neoliberalism? The short sweet truth is that companies are becoming “too big to fail” by using two methods, mergers & acquisitions, and consolidation. The big corporations buy up smaller ones either to reduce competition or for their assets, or they downsize because they can use one factory to produce 7 products instead of just 1. That means less jobs for everyone, which is fine because that means less expenses for corporations, which means earnings growth, which means continuation of our great capitalist economy! Huzzah!… right?
Maybe, maybe not. Here’s where stuff gets kinda crazy… So companies are consolidating, but they’re still huge and are making more and more money each year, and many still don’t have a job. That doesn’t really make sense, since a company that is making more money should employ more people, right? Maybe share the wealth a bit with the people who actually need it?
On paper, in a capitalist system, companies rely on supply and demand to determine their prices, but prices don’t really change very drastically from what we’ve seen… You’d think you could buy a winter jacket for a couple bucks in the summer, but that’s not possible. This is because companies actually have control over supply and demand. At the moment, Canadian banks are estimated to have over-employment, by roughly 40,000 workers. When they lose their jobs, and income levels in Canada drop, prices do not drop in accordance. Corporations’ profit margins stay the same while we suffer because of their need to constantly grow their income. They continue to win, while we slowly lose. This helps our most wealthy focus on what they want to do, while the least wealthy attempt to focus on what they need to do amidst all the distraction and noise produced by the wealthy.
So how do we fix this mess? Simple. Get back to the behaviours that helped successfully build-up the human race to what it is today: cooperation. Teach the youth to help each other, teach them of the realities of our world so that they may accurately find their own meaning. Help education and employment work in tandem, instead of making education work towards employment. How can one know if they want to pursue a career in accounting if they have no experience until they have completed their investment in the education?
How can one know if there is even a need for their human capital in their discipline? Simple, properly measure the demand, and provide sufficient supply. If we all work together towards a goal of obtaining 0% unemployment rate, it can be attained. A free education allows for the removal of obsolete jobs because our citizens will have the ability to freely choose knowledge. A controlled economy removes overproduction and the goop that clogs our gears. A more organized society, directed towards the growing knowledge sector will provide everyone with the ability to lead more fulfilling lives, remove the advantages of greed, and allow for further development beyond anything we are capable of today.
Yeah technology and automation will get rid of some jobs, just as the first tractor did in the industrial revolution. These advances, coupled with the free-market are responsible for the high standard of living we currently enjoy. The tablet or laptop you wrote that article on put a library or typewriter factory out of business. Ironically leftist priciples like the minimum wage speed up this process by making it more cost-efficient to invest in automation. Plus self-scanners don’t get sick.
The less jobs needed the better. Otherwise let’s go back to full employment and a 25year lifespan weeding fields with our bare hands.
1. “or they downsize because they can use one factory to produce 7 products instead of just 1”
-So we should abandon machinery and power tools. Return to 5th century with full employment.
2. “A controlled economy removes overproduction and the gunk that clogs our gears.”
-At this point I am convinced you are trolling. Well played sir, you had me going.
I do not argue that we are indebted to the technology we possess today. You are correct to assume that technology is is responsible for the high standard of living that many of us take for granted every day. However I am wary of your point that “the less jobs needed, the better.” Who is to determine what jobs are “needed” or necessary, and what are the grounds for these decisions?
I do not propose that we abandon machinery whatsoever, however I’m sure you’re right in thinking that in a world without technology we would be frantic to find more people to work, rather than more jobs.
I would love to invite you to learn more about Technocracy, it is a political theory devised by scientists shortly after the great depression which highlights many areas of improvement within the current economic Price System we use. Instead of allowing corporations to determine productivity, the theory uses science to determine the most efficient use of human capital (hence the controlled economy).
I wish I was trolling, but I’m just fed up with democracy.
“However I am wary of your point that “the less jobs needed, the better.” Who is to determine what jobs are “needed” or necessary, and what are the grounds for these decisions?”
The parties involved with a transaction will decide. Not some anointed bureaucrat, busybody or scientist as you mention, who has no stake in a transaction. If there is a consumer demand for human contact at the supermarket checkout at a marginally higher cost, a business will provide it. If there is a higher demand for automated checkouts and cheaper prices, that will also be provided.
As populations increase, technology becomes faster and cheaper and our income gaps continue to widen, what do you think these factors will produce? People are already moving away from being social, towards more individualistic lifestyles. It’s not necessarily the parties involved that you need to consider, that type of thinking is too focused. You need to take a step back and realize that there are many factors at play here, and the overused mentality of “the market will sort it out” will only continue to make things worse. If you have any knowledge of economics you would know that nothing works out that way, and if you think that in the future things like this will be decided by “consumer demand” I would warn you that any public company values their shareholders much more than their consumers, especially for such a demand that is quite difficult to voice.
What I am stating is that every individual should have the freedom to decide what they want. Voting with their money and not having to go by your forced idea of a perfect world, or some bureaucratic pseudointellectual.
Shareholders are also the consumers. But nevertheless there is a synergistic relationship between shareholders and consumers in general. There is no better way to voice a demand than through the free-market system. You vote with your money on each transaction. Don’t like the customer service of a robot? Shop elsewhere. Don’t like the uncleanliness of a store? Shop elsewhere.
I agree that every individual should have the freedom to decide what they want, however there are serious issues with every other point you are trying to make.
1. This “freedom” you speak of: If Wal-Mart decided to replace every cashier with a touchscreen, do you seriously think that the regular customers of Wal-Mart would cease to shop there because of this action if they opposed it? Or for those living in a rural community without the abundant retail infrastructure of the city, would you suggest that those consumers commute to the next town for their shopping? For those in poverty, such actions are mainly determined by need, therefore a “vote” in the form of “find another place to shop” is inconceivable.
2. Voting with money: This is already being done, and as you can clearly see – the rich have the loudest voice. This creates an unbalanced playing field for the less wealthy citizen and allows their “demands” to be laughed aside by those with more economic power. Why should one human being be treated preferably to another? You say “Because they have more money”. What does money have to do with freedom? Nothing – Money is a debt instrument, that’s it.
3. Shareholders vs. Consumers: You’re correct in your statement that shareholders are also consumers, however they are not treated as such by the decision makers in public corporations. A CEO is tasked to place shareholders as top-priority, which means to keep them pleased, they must either receive dividends (a portion of the company’s profits which could be spent in far better ways) or they must see the value of their shares increase – which is to say that profits are increasing. Now as profits increase this must mean one of two things: either they are earning more revenue (at the expense of the consumer), or they are decreasing their expenses (at the expense of the employees).
Now explain to me again how these wealthy shareholders are at par with everyday consumers?
1. It depends. If they value quality customer service over automation, yes. The choice lies with them. They might pay a small premium to shop elsewhere.
Any coercion introduced into the equation, as you appear to hint at, can only seek to disrupt this harmony of a free transaction for those involved.
If you agree that every individual should be free to decide what they want, that’s fine. We can agree on no government intervention; no men with guns enforcing your arbitrary view of a perfect shopping experience.
2/3. Money provides the average consumer with the ultimate voting power. Every dollar spent contributes to the success of a business and sends a signal to the CEO or owner they are meeting consumer demand. You seem to be following some bizarre logic that businesses are able to dictate to the consumer what their demand is. I can only assume you haven’t worked in business before. Businesses are required through competition with each other, to bend to the consumers every whim.
You are right to an extent, in that yes, those with more money have more purchasing power. This in no way limits the choice and purchasing power of someone with less money. A rich man affording a BMW, aside from creating jobs etc, doesn’t deprive somebody poorer of the choice of cheaper cars. The same with any good or service; a candy bar, a cheap one bedroom apartment, a mobile phone. In fact the reverse is true. What start off as luxurious products always find their way to the poorer through whats left of the free-market.
“Why should one human being be treated preferable to another?”
Yeah. Why should somebody who gets up at 5am and works a 12 hour shift 6 days a week be able to buy more stuff than somebody who lies in bed the whole time.
When I made reference to Wal-Mart shoppers, I’m talking about someone who NEEDS to shop there because they offer the lowest prices, because they are single-parents or earn a low income, not someone who CHOOSES to shop there because they like the blue signs and the smiley faces. They will absolutely not choose to be able to afford less food for their family in the hopes that their silent vote for more jobs may be cast in their favour.
Every dollar spent tells the owner that they have provided something that is of value to someone, that’s about it unless you’d like to make inferences, but that type of thinking is not logical. Demand can be artificially created, look at pre-orders for video games, look at the huge lines outside of Apple stores. You’re seriously telling me that these massive corporations can’t reasonably predict their initial sales? Oh we’ve sold out of our iPhone6! Oh we’ve sold out of Call of Duty! These are fake instances being created to spark interest and manipulate consumers for the sole benefit of the corporation. This is not bizarre logic, it is a fantastically manipulative scheme that has apparently fooled even the greatest of minds..
Additionally if you think that every business is required to bend to the consumer’s every whim, lets take a look at every “too big to fail” company that should only be a memory, yet continue to stand today. In a real free-market we would have seen these companies crumble under the mistakes they have made, yet they continue to exist because the fact is that the system does not work in the way they have told everyone.
Now it is time for me to make some assumptions, clearly you have no knowledge of economics as you have decided to use the phrase “purchasing power” which in fact is “the number of goods or services that can be purchased with a unit of currency” and is used to compare value in different countries, or the value of an amount of money over a period of time.
Lastly I’m contesting your bigoted view of persons with low income jobs. You seriously believe that how much money a person has is a direct result of what you describe as their “effort”. That a person should be treated preferably because they are able to “buy more stuff”? The only people you can find lying in bed all day are the severely obese people you see on television, and coma patients. To think that someone is living in or near to poverty because they are “lazy” is completely ignorant. Is it completely unfathomable for you to understand that if someone is born into poverty, that their chances of escaping their conditions are almost insurmountable with the systematic oppression they receive from a lack of support. I thank you for clearly displaying a disgusting world-view which highlights the exact mentality that I am trying to address. Clearly you will not find anything here to agree with because we value our fellow human beings on a much different spectrum.
So what you purport to do is remove the only option of the person who NEEDS to shop there. That sounds about right? Push up prices artificially high?
Demand can be artificially created to a limited extent; with such things as new technology but that’s only temporary and still if it doesn’t provide the consumer with value it will quickly flop. Your example of a video game is a terrible one; whats stopping me releasing a game tomorrow and receiving millions of pre-orders? These pre-releases are often based on the reputation of a business or prior reviews of other consumers, in this case gamers.
You seem to have a superiority complex thinking that other consumers are beneath you and stupid enough to buy anything corporations throw at them. People obviously like the service Apple provide, and technologically its a good one.
Just because i didn’t study economics in an academic fashion; i.e knowing the terminology doesn’t make me wrong or you right. That’s simply not an argument.
The only bigotry here is coming from you, a patronising view of “the helpless poor” whom I assume you think are fixed to stay that way. I am in a low paid and unproductive job, on almost minimum wage, for a supermarket like Wallmart. The fact is that most people move out of the “poor” category and aren’t destined to be there.
I dont support a welfare state that traps “the poor” and has bred a huge underclass. If you were really concerned about being born into poverty, this is a good place to start. How do you think those obese can lie in bed all day? Government subsidy perhaps?
Moral absolutes, love them. If your really so compassionate then start by cashing in that capitalistic tablet, phone or pc your writing on and give the money to somebody who needs it. Demanding the goods and resources of others to help people, does not a good person make. Giving out of your own pocket does.
purchasing power =
the financial ability to buy products and services.
“the younger age group’s purchasing power has also increased”
I think you’ll find I used the phrase correctly and within context.