by Justine Burt
The world of work in the U.S. is in crisis. Between outsourcing, automation, the growth of the gig economy, and low employee engagement among people who have jobs, society needs to have a conversation about what the future of work should look like. Our president can try to offer CEOs tax breaks to bring overseas jobs back, but with automation replacing people for routine tasks, most of those jobs are not coming back.
The picture of the world of work looks even more bleak when you consider a few striking statistics. Since 2005, 94% of jobs created have been in the gig economy. This means our economy has mainly been creating flexible, part-time jobs with no benefits. This has been good for companies striving to cut costs, but bad for workers trying to cover basic living expenses. On top of this, standard unemployment statistics are misleading. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the unemployment rate in the U.S. in 2016 was 4.9% but the official unemployment rate does not include people who have stopped looking for work. Tragically, 3 out of 10 men aged 25 to 65 (excluding people who are in the armed forces or institutionalized) were out of the workforce in 2016 according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re curious about why so many people of working age are not working, take a look at this Bureau of Labor Statistics page.
Here’s the good news
We can bemoan these trends or we can pivot toward a green jobs future. People want stable jobs with benefits doing work that gives their lives meaning and purpose. We should develop a plan as a society of the work that needs to be done and invest in this plan. Our parents and grandparents invested in the U.S. highway system, airports, schools and other infrastructure that have benefited society. We need to invest in this country as well. Here is a list of 19 green jobs projects in renewable energy, green building retrofits, cleaner transportation, regenerative agriculture and recycling that will create millions of new jobs in the U.S.
1. Retrofit residential buildings for solar and energy efficiency (net zero energy) and water conservation
2. Retrofit commercial and industrial buildings for solar and energy efficiency (net zero energy) and water conservation
3. Build offshore wind farms
4. Build more community solar projects
5. Replace dirty diesel back-up generators at hospitals and municipalities with solar emergency microgrids
6. Develop dense, low-rise live/work areas downtown with shops and restaurants
7. Fix leaking water distribution infrastructure
8. Embed part-time sustainability project managers in mid-sized businesses to oversee waste prevention, water conservation, plug-load management and alternative commute projects
9. Build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure
10. Further develop mass transit infrastructure
11. Develop mobility-as-a-service (to shift away from personally owned modes of transportation and towards mobility solutions that are consumed as a service)
12. Support organic farms to develop new sources of income and increase acreage growing organic food
13. Create food hubs to help organic farms distribute produce more efficiently
14. Create food companies that use “ugly” produce
15. Develop carbon farming capacity to sequester carbon emissions
16. Plant and raise 256 million acres of forest (amount of forestland lost in the U.S. since 1630)
17. Develop paper recycling plants
18. Develop plastic recycling plants
19. Create a tool lending library in each town
All together these 19 categories will reduce waste, regenerate topsoil, build a clean energy future, stabilize our climate and create jobs with purpose.
In the startup world, the term “pivot” refers to a strategy for iteratively searching for a repeatable and scalable business model. The U.S. economy has been hemorrhaging jobs and the bleeding will become worse in coming years. We should invest in a better business model that creates good middle class jobs that cannot be outsourced or automated. In future blog posts I will give more details about where the opportunities are for more job growth and how to create these jobs. Stay tuned.