Posted by Barbara Kiviat
Richard Florida’s recent piece in the FT, “America needs to make its bad jobs better,” presents a pretty interesting argument, one that a nation so focused on job creation might want to keep in mind. Florida points out, as plenty of others have before, that the sorts of service-sector jobs the U.S. is on track to create the most of in coming years—for home health aides, customer service workers, food preparers, retail sales clerks—don’t necessarily pay all that well, and certainly not as well as the manufacturing jobs they are replacing. Florida then argues that low pay isn’t necessarily inherent in these sorts of jobs, and that it is fully within our control to make them better:
It has happened before. [T]he blue-collar jobs we pine for were not always good jobs: we made them good jobs. When my father came back from the second world war, his poorly paid factory job had been transformed. He was able to buy a house, put his two sons through college and participate fully in the American dream. Some of this was due to the power of unions. Most of it was because of the enormous improvements in productivity wrought by improved technologies and management techniques. The same thing can and must happen in the service sector.