Here’s a sobering thought.
Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says the unrelenting rise in the proportion of men without work since the 1970s will continue and by 2050 he estimates that around one-third of all men in the United States will be without work.
Writing on his blog, Summers says jobs are being destroyed by technology and have been for decades.
“Job destruction caused by technology is not a futuristic concern. It is something we have been living with for two generations,” he said noting that “a simple linear trend suggests that by mid-century about a quarter of men between 25 and 54 will not be working at any moment”.
But Summers says that the linear extrapolation is “likely a substantial underestimate unless something is done for a number of reasons”.
Those reasons are:
- Everything we hear and see regarding technology suggests the rate of job destruction will pick up. Think of the elimination of drivers, and of those who work behind cash registers.
- The gains in average education and health of the workforce over the last 50 years are unlikely to be repeated.
- To the extent that non-work is contagious, it is likely to grow exponentially rather than at a linear rate.
- Declining marriage rates are likely to raise rates of labor force withdrawal given that non-work is much more common for unmarried than married men.
Which leads him to his prediction that one-in-three men will be out of work and that “more than half of men will experience a year of non-work at least one year out of every five”.
This naturally raises issue of social cohesion, the ability of the economy, and the government to support such high levels of unemployment and its impact on American family life and values.
These are questions that are likely to reverberate all across the developed world.