Where Will the New Jobs Come From?

Article excerpt

This is not a treatise offering employment advice.

We won't give you recommendations about the courses or training to take to guarantee an irresistible resume or steady employment. We won't counsel you as to the kind of career change to consider in order to guarantee yourself a job. We won't even tell you what industries are likely to experience a demand for qualified workers in the next decade or so. You already know that: health-care, data processing, recreation, the usual list.

This article is a leap of faith. We will predict where the new jobs will come from 15, 20, even 50 years down the road. The subject is of concern to managers who consider themselves long-term strategists. Besides, there is such a dearth of good news about employment these days that some educated speculation about the future of jobs might come as a relief.

When we asked pundits and experts, we got little in the way of actual job descriptions. What we did get were ideas combining areas of work in interesting and innovative ways. These ideas were controversial and sometimes mutually exclusive, but always compelling. We also found refreshing and iconoclastic their notions of how the earth's environment might be thought of as a job generator for future workers.

But first, a look at a few macro-forces now at work that are affecting employment and are likely to continue to do so into the future. There are three circumstances that will have a profound effect on the creation of new jobs:

AN OLDER WORKFORCE. By 2010, the average age of the U.S. labor force will be 40, the oldest in our history. Moreover, since the late 1940s, baby boomers - whose numbers have moved along demographic charts like a mongoose through a python - will reach normal retirement age. They will live longer than past generations and will require healthcare attention and legislative action to lengthen their job tenures and to refinance Social Security and change eligibility requirements.

HIGH IMMIGRATION LEVELS. The U.S. population is projected to grow disproportionately via immigration even more than it did during the 1980s. During that decade, historically high numbers - 10 million people - immigrated to the United States, 85 percent of them from Latin America and Asia. The current immigration differs from that of the last turn of the century, when skilled and unskilled workers came to the United States to find available employment. Now, unskilled immigrant workers gravitate to large cities, where the base of manufacturing and small business is shrinking and where there are no jobs. Consequently, there is no unskilled labor shortage in America; moreover, there is not likely to be one for the better part of the next century. Skilled and professional workers, on the other hand, will continue to be sought after.

AN INCREASINGLY FEMALE WORKFORCE. By 2000, half the U.S. labor force will be female, a circumstance that will continue into the 21st century. This means more women managers. Presumably, their viewpoints and wellsprings of experience brought to the workplace will differ from those of their male counterparts. The proportion of white male new entries into the U.S. workforce in the early decades of the 21st century will decrease in favor of women and minorities.

There are also two global occurrences that will have a significant effect on the generation of new jobs:

First, the economic dichotomies between the upper middle class and the global poor will become more pronounced in the decades to come. According to Richard J. Barnet, a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, of the 5.4 billion people in the world, only 1.9 billion of them are really in the system as producers or consumers of goods, even at a most basic level: a shared bottle of Coca-Cola, for example, or a single Marlboro cigarette sold from an open pack behind a vendor's counter.

There is much anecdotal evidence pointing to a direct relationship between a situation in which eo le come to believe they have no place in society - or a marginal place, at best - and a rise in political violence and crime. …