If you've been reading our unemployment stories—or if you've been out looking for a job lately—you know that many college graduates (and even advanced degree holders) are forced to accept low-skill jobs that don't put their degrees to use. One economist is now arguing that this state of affairs is the new normal.
A new research paper says that whereas this sort of chronic underemployment has heretofore been seen as a temporary effect of the recession, it may actually persist for far longer than previously believed. Why? THE ROBOTS. NOT EVEN JOKING. From the WSJ:
They found that unlike the 1990s, when companies needed hundreds of thousands of skilled workers to develop, build and install high-tech systems-everything from corporate intranets to manufacturing robots-demand for such skills has fallen in recent years, even as young people continued to flock to programs that taught them.
"Once the robots are in place you still need some people, but you need a lot less than when you were putting in the robots," said Paul Beaudry, an economist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the paper's lead author.
A sober reading of this conclusion would lead one to believe that all we really need to do is wait around for the next technological revolution which will create millions of high skill jobs and put college graduates back to work productively. Of course, the fact that it's a new technological revolution means all your old college degrees will be useless, so for the chronically underemployed of today, the message seems to be: you are fucked long term no matter what.
(Though not as fucked as those without a college degree, whose low skill jobs you took.)
The real winners here: 1) colleges, who can forcefully argue that you must indebt yourself to get a college degree if you ever want to achieve your dream of working a boring $10/ hour job that any moron could do, and 2) the robots. Always the robots.
[WSJ. Photo: AP]