Government will do less for you. Companies will do less for you. Unions can do less for you. There will be fewer limits, but also fewer guarantees. Your specific contribution will define your specific benefits much more. Just showing up will not cut it. Thomas FriedmanThe quote is from Friedman's op ed in today's Irish Times. He thinks the solution to the developed world's worsening jobs crisis is better education to ensure a match between skills and jobs. But in the age of the Amazon Mechanical Turk that simply won't be enough.
The crisis is twofold: first we have The Great Decoupling whereby GDP appears to be getting bigger, 'thanks' in the main part to financial bubbles; but employment itself stagnates - due to innovation and automation rendering the skills of even the best qualified increasingly redundant. The second part of the crisis is youth unemployment: never in history has the developed world (and Ireland, for that matter) had more, better qualified graduates entering the workforce and yet the number of young people out of work globally is almost equal to the population of the United States. And rising.
Here in Ireland the ratio of the adult population in work (i.e.: numbers in jobs divided by the total adult population) is back to (or below) levels last seen in the 1990s:
Meanwhile, Ireland's GDP is growing again - suggesting we have our own 'decoupling' under way.
Will a eurozone recovery reverse the trend? It might (though how you get the eurozone to recover is another issue). But I suspect we are witnessing a more profound change in our fortunes, one in which The Religion of Progress goes the way of most religions in the West - though probably with a lot more fuss. If the 'four horsemen' of progress (financialization, energy shortages, demographic winter and men opting out) don't turn back then it's hard to see how things will get better, never mind stop getting worse.
Still, I am a hopeful pessimist (to borrow Iain McGilchrist's self-description), and I think here in Ireland we will be forced to try a number of different things (from virtual currencies to 21st century monasteries) rather than wait for Brussels or Frankfurt to put their house in order. Whether an ageing cohort of political leaders have the vision, never mind the desire to really tackle the unprecedented challenges faced by our young people remains to be seen.
That's the hopeful part.