October 21st, 2013
09:04 PM ET

What I'm reading: America's relevant skill shortage

By Fareed Zakaria

“For a long time, ‘because the American people were the most educated in the world, they were in the best position to invent, be entrepreneurial, and produce goods and services using advanced technologies,’ Harvard professors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz assert in their 2008 book, The Race Between Education and Technology,” writes Rick Wartzman in American Prospect.

“For those born from the 1870s until about 1950, the authors found, every decade witnessed an uptick of about 0.8 years of education. In other words, ‘during that 80-year period the vast majority of parents had children whose educational attainment greatly exceeded theirs.’ But then something happened: ‘Educational change between the generations … came to an abrupt standstill.’"

”The timing couldn’t have been worse. To perform practically any function in the Skechers warehouse, ‘you need to use a computer...‘It takes new skills.’ Yet relatively few people have them. Even fewer are prepared for the kinds of jobs that may come next."


“During China’s demographic explosion, maintaining job growth was the government’s paramount priority,” write Damian Ma and William Adams in Foreign Affairs. “Occupational safety, collective bargaining rights, and other costly labor protections were vastly less important, and summarily ignored. That started to change a little with the Chinese Labor Contract Law of 2008, the centerpiece of a stronger labor regulatory package that increased worker protections against layoffs, obliged employers to negotiate with the party-controlled unions over pay rates and benefits, and provided workers with new avenues to defend their rights against employers in courts.

“Fully enforced, the regulation’s provisions were estimated to increase the cost of employing Chinese workers by some 10–20 percent. But at the time the law was enacted, no one gave that much thought. After all, there were still nearly 200 million migrants in the cities and millions more waiting to move off farms. As long as the supply remained abundant, the employer’s paradise would endure. By 2010, however, cracks were starting to show.”


“Predicting the decline of the United States has always been risky business. In the 1970s and late 1980s, expectations of waning power were followed by periods of geopolitical resurgence,” write Ely Ratner and Thomas Wright in the Washington Post.

"There’s every reason to believe that cycle is recurring today. Despite gridlock in Washington, America is recovering from the financial crisis and combining enduring strengths with new sources of influence, including energy. Meanwhile, emerging powers are running into troubles of their own. Taken together, these developments are ushering in a new era of American strategic advantage."

Next entry »
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Cathy

    Very important for American success is not only high-level education, but also political awareness, right compass, wright opinion on world view, international experience, knowing the who's who, game theory, be aquainted with global players, ... and last but not least have a superiorly managed American Image.

    October 22, 2013 at 3:44 am |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Sounds real good. I just might know someone who fits the bill perfectly, and she can even see Russia from her house !

      October 22, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Cathy, what this post says is that Communism, inasmuch as it has been condemned by the West, is actually helping China in this one regard. Had the Communists there not emerged victorious in 1949, China would be light years behind the rest of the world as far as technology is concerned.

      October 22, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • ✠RZ✠

        McCarthy, where's your sense of humor man?!? You are such a party pooper. The technology that some of us had to grow up with was keypunch and hoppers with boxes upon boxes of punch cards using operating systems that would now resemble names of mining ghost towns (ie. Cobalt or maybe Fort Trann). Today, we don't even fix stuff anymore, just toss it out and replace it with a new one. Fix it ?!? Heck, seems we toss out perfectly usable items every month or so after standing in line for hours just to get the next upgrade version.

        I just don't get it. Things have changed so much in the last 50 to 60 years or so. The trend to rely so much upon others for almost everything these days is just a bit too alien for many of us to accept. Should we still be trying to teach our children the meaning of the word "independence", or has it already become obsolete and it's just me that's out of touch with reality? You know?, like those Borg guys on Star Trek "Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated".

        October 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  2. JAL

    Community colleges are well positioned to meet any educational demand. I just hope that war doesn't create that demand, like in the past.

    October 22, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Societal decay and dwindling family culture can be held responsible for America's "relevant skill shortage". Children neglected by their families and schools have a hard time to learn about essentials about life apart from their curriculum. This has an impact on their abilities to attain higher education.

    October 22, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  4. chrissy

    Lmao @ RZ love YOUR sense of humor, that was cute about S.P. And this country still has a long way to go before we have really recovered from the last financial crisis!

    October 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  5. rightospeak

    What nonsense !What propaganda ! The US is full of highly educated people with NO JOBS IN SIGHT ! Please get off the high horse !

    October 23, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Greg Keener

      Well said, rightospeak. Thank you. We need to boot those right-wing politicians in Washington out of office!

      October 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • NoGig

      Well said. We have an abundance of citizens with the skills, education and intelligence for all available jobs. Indeed our only shortage is of CEOs holding any values, morals or allegiance other than self-enrichment.

      November 12, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  6. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    October 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm |

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Next entry »