Tomorrow's industry and the people to run it
How can societies put to work the army of ''structurally unemployed'' mentioned above?Skip to next paragraph
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* Marshal available people with present skills to do work that nations need done. No free country would adopt China's almost military mobilization of citizens to build an ''infrastructure,'' to use the fashionable term. But China strikingly reduced chronic seasonal unemployment - and increased farm productivity - by enlisting peasants in off-season work such as erecting irrigation dams, planting trees, and constructing terraces.
The US is matching workers with needed work in a small way through a new version of the CCC - a legislative program to match young people with conservation projects. The public and private sectors could fruitfully get together to revitalize America's declining infrastructure of roads and bridges, for example, through hiring older people, too.
* Reduce the disparity between encouraging investment in equipment and encouraging investment in people. In the US the government's tax credits and other investment incentives for capital and technology have been calculated at six or seven times the incentives for training and improving the quality of the work force.
With Europe's recent steel subsidies in the news, it is interesting to note that they were not given free to the producers. They were contingent on such industry efforts as relocating and retraining workers - similar to government-industry bargains in Japan.
An example of private initiative in aiding displaced workers came from a British sugar refiner that had to close refineries and end jobs because of a shift from imported cane to home-grown beets. The company acted as a banker to invest in enterprises ready to give ''first refusal'' jobs to the laid-off workers.
* ''Customize'' training for present and future jobs. This is part of the trend toward cooperative education through which businesses and schools work together in preparing young people for entry level jobs which they have some assurance of obtaining. Unlike some European apprenticeship programs for jobs already overfilled, customized programs seek out employers' specific requirements and provide the training to meet them. Oklahoma, Georgia, and South Carolina have been prominent among 30 states developing such programs.
* Eliminate race, sex, and age bias. Already there are prudent warnings against a possible new wave of discrimination in providing training and opportunity for the skilled jobs of the future. Impending shortages are seen in the skilled labor market. If a country's full productive talent is to be summoned, equal rights must be fundamental to all the structural solutions sampled here.
* Ensure that management and corporate structure are as up to date as the workers companies need - and thus get to the root of creating an economy that provides jobs. In the case of American executives particularly, there is a need for long-range planning beyond short-term profits. The productivity that leads to more jobs can be enhanced through management responsiveness to the new emphasis on work environment and two-way communication with employees.
To take a small detail to do with improving skills, one manpower study found neither management nor unions doing much to publicize company tuition-assistance plans. The result was no more than 5 percent of workers making use of such plans.
A Swedish insurance company raised productivity 10 percent through giving employees more organizational participation. The resulting change meant that workers learned new and several skills instead of the one each had concentrated on. Salaries were based not only on a single skill but the number of skills in which a worker was competetent. An American airline cooperated with a union to reduce layoffs by allowing employees working as ''partners'' to share jobs temporarily. Other employers have cooperated in state plans for work-sharing by which employees work a day less per week, for example, and receive a proportion of unemployment compensation to make up some part of the difference.
* Improve public education at all levels. This, of course, is the basis of preparing a citizenry of the future with a combination of basic skills and continuing learning ability to adapt to rapid change in the jobs picture. ''Computer literacy'' needs to be added to the three Rs these days, not just for those who will use computers in their jobs but for all having to understand the world around them for satisfying and productive lives.