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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Employment has been decoupled from Growth

In his insightful book The New Barbarian Manifesto, first published in 2000, at page 63, Ian Angell wrote;

“When will politicians and their lackeys ever learn that technology is the problem not the solution? Today, productivity is delivered by technology needing only a few machine minders. National economies are no longer able to grow themselves out of unemployment. Growth has been decoupled from employment; it is created from the talent of a few knowledge workers, not from the labour of low-grade service and production workers. Neither does it come from arbitrary education programmes, nor from throwing capital investment at it. Growth is delivered by entrepreneurs, but only if they are given incentives, and otherwise left alone to get on with business.”

The current rate of growth of the global population is about 1% per annum, at which rate population would double in 70 years to 14 billion. Seventy years seems a long way away but realise that many planners are predicting that the population will level off at around 9 billion by 2050.

In fact at 1% per annum growth rate a population total of 8 billion will be breached by the end of 2025, less than thirteen years away. That is based on simple mathematics, one per cent compound annual growth from 2012.  Hence in just over 13 years the population will increase by over 14%; more troubling, at one per cent per annum the global population will grow past the 9 billion mark in 2036 i.e. 14 years prior to 2050.

This indicates that forecasters are asking us to believe that population growth will approach zero per cent per annum between now and 2050.

In reality it is completely naïve to expect that the present growth rate will be held at 1% per annum, let alone that it may fall below that figure.

It is already apparent that every developed nation is exhibiting concern about its declining population and many are introducing measures designed to encourage their citizens to have more children.

The burning question has to be – not how we will feed all the people, not where they will be accommodated – it is what will all the people do to occupy themselves? I have no doubt that we will be able to solve the food, accommodation and other challenges, but I am unsure about the latter challenge.

Put simply, how will the mass of people be gainfully employed?

The follow on question is surely; how should education and training change in order to equip the mass of the population to make a contribution to society through gainful and purposeful employment in future?

I sincerely hope someone has some ideas as to the answers to these questions, if not the answers.

Some of the thoughts expressed by Seth Godin in his book Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? How to Drive your Career and Create a Remarkable Future may prove helpful.

If you have some ideas please comment on this blog or send your comments direct to the editor.