labor-market

lareviewofbooks.org
Are PhD Students Irrational? - Los Angeles Review of Books
by Aaron R. Hanlon

We’ve presupposed a scenario in which there really is a massive oversupply of PhDs, and thus PhD students must be irrational for treading into an oversupplied labor market. But that’s simply not true. PhD “oversupply” is just a euphemistic way of talking about the fact that colleges and universities haven’t met student-generated demand with a commensurate supply of full-time, tenure-track faculty. Instead, we’ve rendered the majority of faculty contingent, increased administrators and administrative staff by 85 and 240 percent, respectively, over the past 40 years, and created a massive holding pen of temporary postdoctoral positions in STEM. If we look outside of academia for good measure, we see similar evidence of increased dependency on contingent labor, decades of stagnant wages, and no increase in leisure time to accompany increases in economic productivity. In this light it becomes harder to claim that PhD students are especially irrational or shortsighted, since so much of the broader US workforce is facing similar problems.

lareviewofbooks.org
Are PhD Students Irrational?

No.

“We’ve presupposed a scenario in which there really is a massive oversupply of PhDs, and thus PhD students must be irrational for treading into an oversupplied labor market. But that’s simply not true. PhD “oversupply” is just a euphemistic way of talking about the fact that colleges and universities haven’t met student-generated demand with a commensurate supply of full-time, tenure-track faculty. Instead, we’ve rendered the majority of faculty contingent, increased administrators and administrative staff by 85 and 240 percent, respectively, over the past 40 years, and created a massive holding pen of temporary postdoctoral positions in STEM. If we look outside of academia for good measure, we see similar evidence of increased dependency on contingent labor, decades of stagnant wages, and no increase in leisure time to accompany increases in economic productivity. In this light it becomes harder to claim that PhD students are especially irrational or shortsighted, since so much of the broader US workforce is facing similar problems.”

Work and Worth

What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society. 

Does anyone seriously believe hedge-fund mogul Steven A. Cohen is worth the $2.3 billion he raked in last year, despite being slapped with a $1.8 billion fine after his firm pleaded guilty to insider trading?

On the other hand, what’s the worth to society of social workers who put in long and difficult hours dealing with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse? Probably higher than their average pay of $18.14 an hour, which translates into less than $38,000 a year.

How much does society gain from personal-care aides who assist the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities? Likely more than their average pay of $9.67 an hour, or just over $20,000 a year.

What’s the social worth of hospital orderlies who feed, bathe, dress, and move patients, and empty their ben pans? Surely higher than their median wage of $11.63 an hour, or $24,190 a year.

Or of child care workers, who get $10.33 an hour, $21.490 a year? And preschool teachers, who earn $13.26 an hour, $27,570 a year?

Yet what would the rest of us do without these dedicated people?

Or consider kindergarten teachers, who make an average of $53,590 a year.

Before you conclude that’s generous, consider that a good kindergarten teacher is worth his or her weight in gold, almost.

One study found that children with outstanding kindergarten teachers are more likely to go to college and less likely to become single parents than a random set of children similar to them in every way other than being assigned a superb teacher.

And what of writers, actors, painters, and poets? Only a tiny fraction ever become rich and famous. Most barely make enough to live on (many don’t, and are forced to take paying jobs to pursue their art). But society is surely all the richer for their efforts.

At the other extreme are hedge-fund and private-equity managers, investment bankers, corporate lawyers, management consultants, high-frequency traders, and top Washington lobbyists.

They’re getting paid vast sums for their labors. Yet it seems doubtful that society is really that much better off because of what they do.

I don’t mean to sound unduly harsh, but I’ve never heard of a hedge-fund manager whose jobs entails attending to basic human needs (unless you consider having more money as basic human need) or enriching our culture (except through the myriad novels, exposes, and movies made about greedy hedge-fund managers and investment bankers).

They don’t even build the economy. 

Most financiers, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants are competing with other financiers, lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants in zero-sum games that take money out of one set of pockets and put it into another.

They’re paid gigantic amounts because winning these games can generate far bigger sums, while losing them can be extremely costly.

It’s said that by moving money to where it can make more money, these games make the economy more efficient.

In fact, the games amount to a mammoth waste of societal resources.

They demand ever more cunning innovations but they create no social value. High-frequency traders who win by a thousandth of a second can reap a fortune, but society as a whole is no better off.

Meanwhile, the games consume the energies of loads of talented people who might otherwise be making real contributions to society – if not by tending to human needs or enriching our culture then by curing diseases or devising new technological breakthroughs, or helping solve some of our most intractable social problems.  

Graduates of Ivy League universities are more likely to enter finance and consulting than any other career. 

For example, in 2010 (the most recent date for which we have data) close to 36 percent of Princeton graduates went into finance (down from the pre-financial crisis high of 46 percent in 2006). Add in management consulting, and it was close to 60 percent.

The hefty endowments of such elite institutions are swollen with tax-subsidized donations from wealthy alumni, many of whom are seeking to guarantee their own kids’ admissions so they too can become enormously rich financiers and management consultants.

But I can think of a better way for taxpayers to subsidize occupations with more social merit: Forgive the student debts of graduates who choose social work, child care, elder care, nursing, and teaching.  

marketwatch.com
40% of unemployed workers are millennials

The jobs market is improving, according to government data released Thursday, but millennials are still left out in the cold. They’re suffering more than any other age group, new research finds.

Some 40% of unemployed workers are millennials, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released to MarketWatch, greater than Generation X (37%) and baby boomers (23%). That equates to 4.6 million unemployed millennials — 2 million long-term — 4.2 million unemployed Xers and 2.5 million jobless baby boomers.

anonymous asked:

I haven't really read up on too much of the discussion about STEM and job prospects, but my own two cents wrt is that being in STEM is not magically going to give you a job. I'm in engineering and everyone loves to wave around the fact that the starting salary is 70k but nobody wants to discuss the fact that much of the jobs are private sector and require a lot of networking/connections in order to get a reasonable, steady job at that income. It's harder if you're a woman/minority.

Yeah from what I’ve heard the job market for engineers is a lot like the job market for everyone else, it’s just that the STEM fascination gives people a good thing to blame the shitty job market on–not enough people are doing X!

But the thing is that systemic things like the job market simply cannot be solved at the individual level.  We need a change by an actor that acts at the systemic level in order to change the systemic level.

Mod R

A Diabolical Mix: U.S. Wages and European Austerity
What if Europe and the US converged on a set of economic policies that brought out the worst in both – European fiscal austerity combined with a declining share of total income going to workers? Given political realities on both sides of the Atlantic, it is entirely possible.

So far, the US has avoided the kind of budget cuts that have pushed much of Europe into recession. Growth on this side of the pond is expected to be around 2.4 per cent this year. And jobs are recovering, albeit painfully slowly.

But a tough bout of fiscal austerity could be coming in six months. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warned last week that if the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule at the start of 2013, just as $100bn of budget cuts automatically take effect under the deal to raise the debt ceiling that Democrats and Republicans agreed to last August, the US will fall into recession in the first half of next year.

Even if these measures were to reduce the cumulative public debt, a recession would increase the debt as a proportion of gross domestic product – making a bad situation worse. That is the austerity trap much of Europe now finds itself in.

Meanwhile, real wages in the US continue to fall. A new “World Outlook” released by the International Monetary Fund last Friday showed that in the three years since the depths of the downturn in 2009, total national income has rebounded in most of Europe and in the US. But the share of national income going to workers has fallen sharply in the US, while rising in Europe as a whole.

The trend is even more striking measured from the start of the recession. It used to be that when a downturn began, profits fell faster than workers’ income because companies were reluctant to lay off employees and couldn’t easily cut wages given union contracts or the threat of unionization.

That is still the case in Europe, courtesy of stronger unions and labor-market regulations. But it is no longer the rule in the US. Since the start of the recession, the share of total US national income going to profits has risen even as the share going to the workforce has plunged. Profits in the US corporate sector are now at a 45-year high.

American workers have been willing to settle for lower wages in order to retain their old jobs or secure new ones. At the same time, US companies, intent on increasing profits, have more aggressively outsourced abroad, substituted contract workers and temps for full-time employees and replaced workers with computers and software.

The workforce’s share of total income includes the salaries of managers and professionals as well as the non-salary income of high-flying chief executives and financiers who receive capital gains, interest and stock compensation.

The widening gulf between the stratospheric compensation packages of the latter and most other Americans suggests why the median wage is dropping, adjusted for inflation, notwithstanding a growing economy and a jobs recovery.

The trend is all the more remarkable considering that the share of national income going to workers used to be substantially higher in the US than in Europe because Americans have to buy what most Europeans receive free – including university education and healthcare.

A dozen years ago, 64 per cent of US national income went to the labor force, according to the IMF, compared with 56 per cent in Europe. Today, however, the shares going to workers are converging – 58 per cent of national income goes to the workforce in the US and 57 per cent in Europe.

Political realities in Europe may be pushing policy makers in the same direction. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has finally started talking about spurring growth. Under increasing political pressure at home, she seems to have accepted the need to add measures promoting growth to the EU’s treaty on fiscal discipline.

But Ms Merkel and her conservative allies haven’t given up on austerity economics. She is still opposed to fostering growth through more spending, insisting that would only worsen Europe’s debt problems. Instead, she wants to spur growth with “structural reforms” – by which she presumably means giving companies more freedom to hire and fire, outsource jobs to contract workers and, in general, be less constrained by regulation.

That is of course the American model – which has been fueling corporate profits at the same time as it depresses wages.

If Europe were to move towards structural reforms that create a labor market similar to America’s while pursuing fiscal austerity, while America embraces fiscal austerity as US corporations continue to shrink payrolls, we are likely to experience the same results on both sides of the Atlantic. Real wages will decline, we will have less economic security and our public services will be diminished. That is not sustainable, economically or politically.

[I wrote this for the Financial Times]

In 2013, America’s three largest private-sector employers are all low-wage retailers: Wal-Mart, Yum! Brands (which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken) and McDonald’s. In 1960, the three largest employers were high-wage unionized manufacturers or utilities: General Motors, AT&T, and Ford.
—  Harold Meyerson, ‘The 40-Year Slump’ via The American Prospect

College degrees are not the solution to stagnating wages or inequality

Our recent report on the class of 2016 showed that young high school and college graduates still face high levels of unemployment and stagnant wages, even though the labor market has improved since the Great Recession. Between these two groups, however, young high school graduates face a far less forgiving economic reality: the unemployment rate for young high school graduates is over three times higher than their college-educated peers (17.9 percent versus 5.6 percent), nearly one in seven is stuck in a part-time job when they really want full-time work, and the wages of entry-level jobs have barely budged since 2000.

Coding is Driving the Car (and More)

A couple of days ago there was a much favorited and retweeted tweet by the often funny Startup L. Jackson 

Whenever someone tells me “coding is the new literacy” because “computers are everywhere today” I ask them how fuel injection works.

Now I happen to think that this is wrong in an important way but right in another and it is important to pick those two apart.

Let me start by how it is wrong. Coding is knowing how to drive the car, not how to tune or repair the fuel injection. There is a huge amount of coding that can be done without understanding how a compiler or interpreter does its job or knowing about the registers in the CPU or any of the myriad of other pieces that go into making code execute (in fact see below for how that will go even further shortly).

But even equating coding with driving the car is somewhat short changing it. Because driving the car is still specific to driving a car and won’t let you sail a boat or fly an airplane. Coding on the other hand will let you program anything that’s, well programmable, which in the future will be everything.

So how then do I believe that the tweet is also right? Well it is right in that what we tend to think of as learning to code today is probably not what coding will be like for most people in the future. Instead for the most part programming will be closer to using IFTTT or Zapier than to writing code from scratch in an editor. Still, you will need some understanding of what inputs and outputs are and grok the idea of breaking a process down into smaller steps that can then be combined to give you a desired result. That will be the essential knowledge about coding for most people and that is in fact a new type of literacy.

One reason why that’s important is that there is currently a narrative that we can solve labor market problems by just training more software engineers and that there will be a nearly limitless demand for programming skills in the future. That I believe is the equivalent of thinking that everyone will need to be able to repair their car instead of drive it and training way too many car mechanics as a result.

Mean Callback Rate by Potential Employers, by Racial Soundingness of Names

Follow this link to find a short video and analysis that examines racial discrimination in the labor market.

The authors of a 2003 National Bureau of Economic Research report concluded. “Based on our estimates, a White name yields as many more callbacks as an additional eight years of experience.” (x)

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

online.wsj.com
Whose job is it to train workers?

Companies complain that they can’t find skilled hires, but they aren’t doing much to impart those skills, economists and workforce experts say. U.S. companies have been cutting money for training programs for decades, expecting schools and workers to pick up the slack. Economists say that reluctance to develop workers in-house has made it hard for workers to launch or sustain careers, resulting in a stalemate in the labor market: Companies won’t look at job candidates who lack a specific skill set, so openings go unfilled even as millions linger on the unemployment rolls.

The government hasn’t tracked spending on corporate training since the mid-1990s, but one rough measure, the percentage of staffers at U.S. manufacturers dedicated to training and development, has fallen by about half from 2006 to 2013, according to research group Bersin by Deloitte.

Employers’ expectations for new hires have shifted since the recessions of the early 1980s, when companies laid off masses of workers and slashed training programs. Where bosses once hired for potential, viewing workers as lumps of clay to be molded to the company’s needs, they now want hires to arrive with all or most of the skills needed for the job—another symptom of how the employer-employee relationship has become reduced to a transaction, said Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

If employers “want only people who can step in immediately because they are currently doing the job, [they] narrow the pool to almost no one,” said Mr. Cappelli. He added that today’s novices are more likely to briefly shadow an experienced worker or log a few hours of on-the-job training than participate in a weekslong learning program.

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Another factor is job insecurity, what economists like to call “flexibility in the labour markets,” which is a good thing under the reigning academic theology, but a pretty rotten thing for human beings, whose fate doesn’t enter into the calculations of sober thinking. Flexibility means you better work extra hours or else. There are no contracts and no rights. That’s flexibility. We’ve got to get rid of market rigidities. Economists can explain it.
—  Noam Chomsky

Young people bring energy, talent and creativity to economies in need for their knowledge and skills. The time has come to unleash their potential to become tomorrow’s workers, entrepreneurs, citizens and agents of change.

Access to decent work is the best way young people can realize their aspirations, improve their living conditions and actively participate in society and in the stimulation of the economy. 

Therefore, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has initiated Decent Work for Youth – a new online platform that aims to engage young people on the labor market and find solutions to the current youth employment crisis.

The platform provides information about decent work for youth and creates a space for young people to gain knowledge, exchange good practices and engage in discussions with each other and experts on youth employment issues.