The subject is constantly in the news and may decide the next national elections – the infamous jobless recovery. More than 8 million Americans are out of work with another 4 million underemployed or no longer looking for work. Good manufacturing, technical and services jobs are being shipped to India, Asia, and other developing countries. The mood of the middle and working class becomes more pessimistic, the outlook for their immediate future more grim.
Politicians debate solutions: abrogating current trade treaties, providing protection for various industries, investment in retraining programs, wishful thinking that lower taxes will turn everything around, the promise of a labor shortage within 15 years.
Meanwhile, the population grows, demanding the creation of 150,000 new jobs per month just to stay even. Where are the more than 2 million 2004 jobs promised by the Council of Economic Advisers?
They will come when the government truly invests in the social and financial welfare of the working public. Historically, the U.S. has looked at employment only in times of crisis – recession or alarming unemployment figures. Rather than “quick fixes,” we need a national long-range policy on employment which addresses the issue, in good times and bad, with sustained interest, analysis, and support.
Here are seven proposals:
1. Create a National Office of Employment to develop long term strategies and oversight of the U.S. labor market in order to track trends, analyze data, research emerging problems, and prepare early interventions.
2. Identify growing and potential industries and the skills they will need in future staff.
3. Design a plan which allows for the rapid retargeting of training courses as Community Colleges and vocational schools are traditionally 5 to 15 years behind current needs.
4. Provide substantial tax incentives for businesses to hire in the U.S. rather than shipping their jobs to low income countries.
5. Devise “red-tape-less” programs to reward employers with significant tax credits for hiring the long-term employed and new trainees.
6. Overhaul the processes of State Unemployment Offices by implementing coordinated support programs in which workers participate as part of receiving unemployment benefits and employers participate as a means of meeting their future needs for staff.
7. Provide incentives for employers to hire more part-time workers. Simultaneously, America must reframe its social policy to promote a new work ethic of reduced work hours, along with increased leisure and volunteer activities, to allow more workers to be employed, albeit for fewer hours. Due to the negative emotional effects of living without work, our society needs to stress high employment rather than high productivity which often translates into fewer workers, working harder and longer.
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