Let me once again get something out of the way:
This is not necessarily a pleasant thought or opinion. The discussion of this topic is one that can VERY easily lead to upset individuals, as the facts presented are not easy to accept. Be aware, and be open-minded.
Now, let’s unfortunately, turn to the American Presidential Elections. As everyone reading this either knows or is still denying, Donald Drumpf was voted by the American Population to be their 45th President. While technically the true election via the Electoral College has yet to take place, let’s act under the assumption that they’ll abide by their expectations. One of Drumpf’s biggest campaign promises was to rather simply, bring jobs back to America. His campaign rode on the promise that these jobs, lost to the globalization movement and various trade deals, can be recovered and brought back to American soil, essentially reviving the middle American working class.
Here’s the problem: That’s impossible.
To best understand why it’s impossible, we need to take a quick look at why that promise was one of the key aspects of Drumpf’s victory; In the years following World War II, the United States of America experienced a massive economic expansion, nicknamed as “The Golden Age of Capitalism” or “The Long Boom” or various other inspiring terms. In essence, the middle class swelled & the working class was able to move into higher paying employment across the country. This is the age where stories of factories in towns of all sizes across the country employed huge swaths of the population. Production was at an all time high, and general labour was required in order to meet demand.
Eventually, things hit equilibrium point and we started to transition towards today’s economy instead. There are a million things blamed for the shift, and I’m not about to get into them, but long story short; that same middle class, albeit a generation or two later, was utterly decimated. The days of factories in every town employing hundreds were gone, and anyone in that working class suddenly found employment much more difficult to come by. Back to today; things haven’t improved for that working class.
So when Drumpf calls that he’ll bring back jobs, and bring manufacturing employment back to American shores, of course, they’ll unite behind him. Who wouldn’t want the days of comfortable, gainful employment being easily accessible to the general populace?
However, there’s a problem. Whatever the true initial cause of this economic downturn was, be it globalization or specific trade deals that allowed the much cheaper labour of the Chinese to dominate manufacturing, that initial cause is no longer a factor.
“Onshoring” is happening. Manufacturing IS returning to America, just not as you’d remember it. Factories are becoming increasingly automated, and that’s not a trend anyone is about to stop.
The problem is not that those jobs are currently being done in China for cheap labour, it’s that those jobs no longer exist. They’re gone. Humans are not the ones performing that work anymore…
The United Nations has released its report on automation and potential global impacts. The bare numbers are not pretty: 2/3rds of all current jobs are targeted for automation.
Not only are the jobs that have already been replaced not coming back, but two-thirds of all jobs still in existence are slated to be replaced. Sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring this seems to be the current methodology adopted by the government and the majority of the population. Hard to blame them, because what government wants to tell 66.66% of its people that they’re going to be unemployed in the future.
If we don’t really start making headway on a societal shift to prepare ourselves for such a change, we’re going to be blindsided by the harsh truth of automation just like we’ve been blindsided by the harsh truth of climate change. We can’t ignore the opinions of global experts and merely pretend that we can go back in time.
It’s time that society, from the people to our governments start addressing the future instead of trying to “Make Donald Drumpf Again” by focussing on things in the past that are no longer possible.
Drumpf can try and do whatever he wants to bring those jobs back, but we’re down to two options, and neither are great.
1) Basic Guaranteed Income. We’re going to have to accept that employment will no longer be a reliable way of sustaining a lifestyle. When 66% of the population have been replaced, this won’t be a socialist idea for the “lazy”, it’ll be a necessity for the fabric of society.
2) Restrict levels of Automation. Try to ensure that companies can only automate a certain amount of their work and must employ a number of humans. Here’s the issue: If this isn’t done globally, companies will just move, as they have always done, to the countries or locations that best allow them to increase their profits.
Given that humanity doesn’t do so well with the “everyone agrees with the same thing at the same time” thing, I think we may only have one option.
Good luck society. Keep your head in the sand if you want, but the Transportation industry is up next for decimation via automation, and it’s set to hit between 2020 and 2030. We may want to start trying to address what the hell we’re going to do.