Jobs: The Next Global Conflict

“As of 2008, the war for good jobs has trumped all other leadership activities, because it’s been the cause and effect of everything else that countries have experienced. This will become even more real in the future as global competition intensifies. If countries fail at creating jobs, their societies will fall apart. Countries, and, more specifically, cities, will experience suffering, instability, chaos, and eventually revolution. This is the new world that leaders will confront.”
This is a passage from a recently released book called The Coming Jobs War, written by Jim Clifton, chairman of Gallup. In it, he contends that the next great global conflict won’t be about ideology or religion or territory; it will be all about jobs, or, rather, what he calls “good” jobs.
He defines these as jobs with a paycheck from an employer and steady work that averages 30 or more hours per week. He contends that there are about 1.2 billion of these good jobs in the world right now, and Gallup polls show that roughly 3 billion of the 5 billion adults in the world work or want to work and need a good job.
That’s a roughly 1.8 billion shortfall. The cities, regions, and countries that fare well in closing this gap will prosper. As for those who don’t … what did Clifton say again? “Instability, chaos, and eventually revolution.”
Those are strong words, but they are pretty hard to argue with. About the only fault we find with Clifton’s argument is his persistent use of the future tense with regard to this global jobs conflict. It isn’t coming — it’s already here, and elected officials, economic-development leaders, and this region’s business community should definitely take heed.
For evidence of the severity of the situation, they need only review the latest data from the Census Bureau about the increasing number of people falling into poverty. There are now 46.2 million poor Americans, or 15.1%, the highest rate in nearly two decades. Of those, 2.6 million fell into poverty last year.
Some did so because they didn’t have a job, but for many, the cause was lack of one of those good jobs, which this region and this country as a whole are simply not creating in the numbers that they have in the past. The reasons are many, from the lingering recession and advancing automation to the migration of manufacturing to other regions and other continents, but the bottom line is that this country is failing on what is now the most important battleground of all.
How do we create good jobs? If the answer to that question came easily, 1.8 billion wouldn’t be looking for them today. The answer is complex, and it involves many components, starting with a greater focus on math and science, similar to what happened more than a half-century ago, a spark that did a lot more than put a man on the moon in 1969; it also helped inspire most of the advances in computer and information technology over the past 40 years.
What is also needed is continued emphasis on entrepreneurship, which is needed to take new ideas and transform them into producers of not only jobs, but those good jobs. And our region must be able to compete for the entrepreneurs and the companies and jobs they will create. This means a large, qualified workforce, costs that are at least in line with other regions, and an environment where ‘pro-business’ is more than a catchphrase — it’s a way of life.
In his book, Clifton compares the jobs conflict to World War II. The latter, he writes, was fought for freedom and for leadership of the free world. “It was for all the marbles … and a loss would have changed everything.”
The jobs war is also for all the marbles, and a loss will change everything.
And, as we said, that war isn’t coming; it’s already here.

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