Old categories of describing the economy
Old categories of describing the economy are largely irrelevant
The old categories of describing the economy are largely becoming irrelevant as evidenced by Reich’s arguments in his article, The Three Jobs of the Future. For a long period of time, the economic wellbeing of nations and companies mostly depended on its ability to fight in a strong industry. These were easily achieved by laying strict guidelines on professional and managerial structures. However, according to Reich, the economy has evolved with a shift in focus occurring due to the rise of a “global web”. The global web Reich is referring to has essentially come about due to the rise and proliferation of multinational corporations, to the extent that industries are no longer limited to national borders. The battle lines have therefore shifted from simple national borders to the value of the labor force, essentially rendering the old categories of describing the economy irrelevant, as is aptly captured when Reich says “No Longer. In the International economy, few American companies and American industries compete against foreign companies and industries,” highlighting the fact that competition has shifted from its traditional confines to the labor market (204).
Reich further argues that the present situation is such that competitiveness is no longer pegged on how well the American industry performs, but rather on how important American workers are to the global market, directly pegged on how well they perform and how valuable their services are deemed to be. This has therefore, brought about a situation whereby competitiveness has shifted to the competitiveness of the country’s workforce. Such that the yardstick used to measure the economic performance of a country has become how valuable its workforce is within the global market. This has led to a situation where Americans no longer sail in the same boat, Reich elaborating that “No longer are Americans rising together or falling together.” (205).
Another argument that Reich puts forth, is that global competition has shifted from simple product quality and an ability to deliver, to the superiority of an organization’s, industry’s and by extension country’s workforce. The description of the categories of workers and their importance at the given levels serves to highlight the changing economic times within which countries are operating. The fact that career paths are no longer as sure and as safe as they used to be is according to Reich testament to the changing times even within the labor market. One could even argue that based on Reich’s assertions, a country’s economy is pegged on their ability to produce and export symbolic analysts as opposed to the other two cadres of workers. Based on Reich’s assertions, a country’s level of competitiveness is hinged on the number of high level workers it exports to the global market, as well as their levels of contribution.
The need therefore, to shift focus from the old economic categories is according to Reich an urgent one, as there is a need to focus more on the workforce and the integral role it is increasingly taking within the global market. This need for this shift can easily be inferred from the fact that even job titles and job descriptions are also shifting with time, to the extent that symbolic analysts do not even have clear distinctions and definitions on what it is exactly that they do. This discrepancy and distortion occurring within the labor market in many countries, is a signal of the fact that the areas of competition have shifted from the traditional categories. Mastery of the old categories or domains is seemingly no longer sufficient, with there being a need for a shift in focus, to ensure that it is clear exactly what role any individual whether professional or not, plays in the world economy, as the rise of the “global web” has made this shift a necessity. Reich essentially provides the first step by naming what he believes to be the three job categories of the future.
Of the three job categories, Reich argues that although in service jobs are traded within the global market, symbolic analytic services are not traded as “standardized things” (207). Instead being traded as manipulations of data, symbols, words, visual and oral representations. This form of contribution, as can be judged from the appreciation that most countries have for innovations such as computer applications. It can currently be regarded as the biggest competition arena in the world market today. A country’s economic viability can therefore be said to be hinged on its labor market’s ability to produce symbolic analysts, capable of contributing uniquely to the world market. Competition has therefore, shifted from industries to the labor market.
Reich, Reich. The future Jobs of the Future: From the Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism, New York: Vintage. 1992.