THE `NEW' AMERICAN WORKER
MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES ARE SUFFERING. LAID-OFF EMPLOYEES MAY BE
FINDING WORK OUT THERE, BUT IT'S OFTEN IN LOWER-PAYING SERVICE JOBS.
By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
This is a Washington morality tale.
Or, how the people who run the country can label you poor one day and well-off the next.
Once upon a time (in 1975, to be exact), the people in Washington enacted a new law to help poor working folks. They called it the earned-income tax credit.
They said that workers struggling at the bottom of the economic pile should get financial assistance from the government. That would encourage them to keep working.
To do that, the people in Washington said they would return to the working poor a portion of the Social Security taxes that had been withheld from their paychecks.
Over the years, as the cost of living went up, so did the amount that the poor could earn and still keep the tax credit. In 1995, for example, a worker with a spouse and two children who earned $25,000 could claim the credit. They were officially among the working poor.
Then one day (April 23, 1996), one of the people in Washington (the President) declared that a new study showed his good works had resulted in the creation of many jobs that pay high wages.
The news media rushed to report the good news.
"Two-thirds of [new] jobs pay above-average wages," trumpeted CNN.
"Newly created jobs pay well, report says," said the New York Times.
"Two-thirds of the jobs created in the last two years have come in occupations paying more than the $480 per week median wage," said the Washington Post.
$480 a week?
That's $24,960 a year.
Didn't that $25,000-a-year family of four qualify for the earned-income tax credit because they're among the working poor?
They're "high-wage" and "working poor" - at one and the same time.
How is it possible to be both?
It's not, of course. But that's the kind of statistical sleight-of-hand that Washington practices year-in and year-out to assure Americans that good jobs are being created.
To be sure, President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, which issued the jobs study, was only doing what its predecessors have done for decades: putting the best possible face on economic statistics.
Every administration, Democratic or Republican, boasts of the jobs created on its watch as evidence of its wise stewardship of the economy. President Ronald Reagan talked of 20 million jobs added during his two terms. The Clinton administration claims credit for 9.7 million.
But behind the numbers is a stark reality that doesn't show up in news releases:
Overall, the new jobs do not match the pay of the old manufacturing jobs that many Americans have lost.
Government policies - especially on global trade - have undermined whole industries that were the lifeblood for generations of production workers. Those industries have been crippled by imports from low-wage countries.
Some 2.6 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the United States since 1979, the peak year for manufacturing employment. As a share of all jobs, manufacturing has dropped from 23 percent to 15 percent.
These were the kinds of good-paying jobs that boosted millions of blue-collar families into the middle class in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
It used to be that a manufacturing worker could support a family on one income. In 1955, the average factory worker's pay was $3,916 a year. That was 89 percent of median family income - enough to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.
In the lower-paying retail trades in 1955, wages averaged only 57 percent of median family income - $2,535. There were 7.6 million retail workers, compared with 16.9 million in manufacturing.
By 1995, that pattern had been reversed. Now, 20.8 million people worked in lower-paying retail, 18.4 million in manufacturing.
Even worse, the average manufacturing pay of $26,652 now was only 67 percent of median family income. That wasn't enough to maintain a middle-class lifestyle in many places.
As for retail pay, it had plunged to only 29 percent of median family income - a wage of $11,532. That means it would take the incomes of a husband, a wife - and even a child - to bring a family near the estimated median income of $39,500.
Many of the people who lost those manufacturing jobs now work in service industries that pay from only slightly above the $4.25-an-hour minimum wage up to $9 an hour. At the high end, that's $18,720 a year, before taxes.
They are people like the security guard at your bank, the aide in the nursing home who cares for your aged parent - and people like Roger Brockert, who worked eight years at a machine-tool plant in Lima, Ohio.
Once he earned $11 an hour as a material handler. But that job came to an abrupt end in 1992, when the plant's last owner, Giddings & Lewis, closed the facility, putting Brockert and 75 others out of work.
After looking for months, he took a job as a shipping clerk for an auto-parts supplier that paid $5.50 an hour - or $11,440 a year. Brockert, 55, has since moved up to $8 an hour - still 27 percent less than he earned in 1992.
"It's been quite a drop," Brockert says. "What you would call a progression. A progression down."
And Roger Brockert isn't an exception. In fact, 50,000 former workers in the machine-tool industry could tell the same basic story.
TOOL AND DIE: HOW A GREAT INDUSTRY WAS LOST
For most of this century, the United States had the world's largest, most innovative machine-tool industry. As manufactured products go, machine tools lack the sex appeal of automobiles or electronics, yet they are indispensable to a nation's manufacturing capability.
Before companies can make cars, refrigerators, washers, dialysis machines or hair dryers, they must have custom-made machine tools to cut, shape, drill, polish or mill the parts that form the finished products. A nation with a weak machine-tool industry is dependent on foreign suppliers to underpin its manufacturing base.
Unlike autos and steel - industries with thousands of workers in one plant - the machine-tool industry was made up of thousands of small tool-and-die shops, many of them family-owned.
Nevertheless, the American industry possessed a technological flair that made it unique. Most major advances in machine-tool design originated in the United States, including the development of computer-driven models that are now the foundation of the modern machine-tool industry worldwide.
More important, the industry was a steady source of good-paying jobs. All through the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the number of engineers, machinists and salesmen employed by machine-tool companies grew, rising to a peak of 108,000 in 1980.
As the 1980s dawned, the U.S. industry stood atop the world.
Then, with remarkable speed, it unraveled.
Orders collapsed from $5.6 billion in 1979 to $1.7 billion in 1983 - a falloff of 70 percent. As hundreds of shops closed or merged with other companies, the number of jobs plunged from 108,000 in 1980 to 69,000 in 1983.
Many factors were at work - a severe recession in the early 1980s, an inability to fully respond to new demands and consolidation.
Yet the chief cause of the industry's troubles was not domestic. It was, rather, a dramatic increase in imports from Japan - and the response to that surge from the U.S. government.
Washington's tireless advocacy of free trade has flooded the American marketplace with imported products of all kinds from all nations, endangering - and frequently ruining - U.S. companies that make the same goods.
Other countries have not been nearly as receptive to imports. Japan, for instance.
Look at how the Japanese took over the machine-tool industry, step by step.
They began by exporting small quantities to the United States in the 1960s. A trickle of machine-tool imports suddenly became a torrent, rising from $300,000 in 1961 to $854 million in 1985.
"Imports are beginning to look more and more like the cat that swallowed the canary," said a trade journal, Purchasing, in October 1985. "Foreign penetration of the domestic market continues to increase. . . . Imports now exceed exports by five times."
To free-traders, it was simply a case of the Japanese being more competitive - producing high-quality goods at rock-bottom prices.
But there was more to the Japanese success than efficiency.
There was the government of Japan.
Starting in the 1950s, Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) encouraged the growth of a large, export-oriented machine-tool industry. MITI did this with government-backed incentives, including low-cost loans, subsidies, loan guarantees and export assistance.
In the meantime, to protect this fledgling industry, Japan sealed off its home market to machine-tool imports. Thus shut out, American companies found that the only avenue open to them was to license their technology for a fee to Japanese companies. This generated short-term income for U.S. toolmakers, and devastating long-term consequences.
All through the 1960s, Japanese companies acquired licenses giving them the right to manufacture American-designed machine tools in Japan. Before long, those tools began showing up in this country as Japanese imports.
In 1982, the American machine-tool industry tried to fight back. It filed charges with U.S. trade authorities, contending that Japanese manufacturers had unfairly benefited from MITI subsidies and a closed market at home that enabled them to price their export products at below-market value.
The industry's petitions for relief provoked a controversy within the Reagan administration. On one side were those who maintained that a vital industry was at stake and some curbs should be placed on imported machine tools. On the other side were free-traders who opposed any constraints on imports. The media lined up mostly on the side of the free-traders. Typical was this editorial from the New York Times on Nov. 8, 1982:
"The reason the Japanese are succeeding is that they make fine tools and sell them at competitive prices. There is no good legal or economic case for invoking protectionist measures. . . . American exporters, including machine-tool exporters, could end up the losers."
The head of one major machine-tool company that had sought relief complained that no one in Washington would listen to the industry's plight.
"They treat us like second-class citizens with dirty fingernails," said Phillip A. O'Reilly, president and chief executive officer of Houdaille Industries of Buffalo, N.Y., then a leading machine-tool maker.
O'Reilly was correct on more than one level. Not only did Washington turn its back on his industry, but a new generation of corporate managers did, too. After all, in the new America, all the good jobs would be high-tech and white collar.
Never mind that no nation would remain a world power if it was unable to build the machines that build the machines.
In any case, no one disputed the quality of the Japanese-made machine tools. It was the Japanese business practices, underwritten by government policy, that were at issue.
American toolmakers provided extensive documentation showing that Japanese tools were selling for less here than in Japan, a violation of international trade rules, and that Tokyo had subsidized the industry, further driving down the selling price.
In the end, the free-traders, backed by intense lobbying by Japanese interests, prevailed.
President Reagan, in February 1984, declined to impose trade sanctions on the Japanese tool industry, saying that such a move would be a blow to free trade. "I remain committed to the principle of free trade as the best way to bring the benefits of competition to American consumers and businesses," Reagan said.
The industry proceeded to go into such a slide that the U.S. Department of Defense became concerned about the implications for national security if machine tools were no longer produced domestically.
As a result, the Reagan administration negotiated a so-called Voluntary Restraint Agreement that placed a cap on Japanese machine-tool imports into the United States.
As trade-protection measures go, Voluntary Restraint Agreements are about as mild as they come. This one did nothing to roll back the volume of Japanese imports. It merely limited future growth. The idea was to give U.S. toolmakers time to regroup.
The agreement expired at the end of 1993. At that point, the industry's trade group, the Association for Manufacturing Technology, told Congress that the American team was once again competitive and "ready to take on the world in fairly traded products."
What kind of an industry has emerged to "take on the world"?
The U.S. machine-tool industry - the world leader in the 1970s - now is a distant third in production, behind Japan and Germany. And it jockeys with Italy, a nation one-fourth its size, for third place on the list.
Machine-tool orders for 1995 totaled $4.9 billion - well below the peak orders of $5.6 billion recorded 16 years earlier in 1979. Measured in constant dollars, the 1995 orders were little more than half the value of orders three decades before, in 1965.
Far more telling are the trade statistics with individual countries over the 10 years from 1986 to 1995.
The United States recorded machine- tool trade deficits in nine of those 10 years with the United Kingdom, producing total deficits of $423 million.
There were also deficits with Italy and Switzerland in all 10 years. The deficit with Italy in 1995 - when the industry supposedly was ready to tackle the world - was a record $118.5 million.
With Switzerland, it was $209 million.
Then there was Taiwan, a nation with a population smaller than California. Again, U.S. deficits in all 10 years, with a 1995 record deficit of $195 million. Total deficits for 10 years: $1.2 billion.
The same with Germany. Total deficits for 10 years: $3.2 billion.
And, finally, of course, Japan. Ten years of machine-tool deficits; in six of the 10 years, they exceeded $1 billion. Again, in 1995, when the United States was ready to face the world, the deficit with Japan hit a record $1.7 billion. Total for 10 years: $10.9 billion in deficits.
To summarize: One industry, six countries, 59 years of trade deficits out of a possible 60, adding up to a total deficit for the United States of $17.7 billion.
All those trade deficits were accompanied by a sharp decline in employment. Nearly half the machine-tool workforce has vanished, as the number of jobs plummeted from 108,000 in 1980 to 58,300 in 1995.
And as is the case with most middle-class Americans, the wages of machine-tool workers have trailed behind the rising cost of living. A machine-tool worker in 1995 earned $34,083 a year. But counted in constant dollars, that was $1,332 less than workers earned 20 years earlier.
A WAY OF LIFE, GONE
Just about anyone in Lima, Ohio, could direct you to the old machine-tool plant on North Baxter Street. It has been there since 1916.
Inside its brick walls, generations of men manufactured tools and dies, molds and special machinery for the auto and electrical industries. The factory was typical of small manufacturers throughout the industrial Middle West. It never had more than 300 workers at a time. But they were steady, good-paying jobs.
Gary Reese went to work there operating a milling machine after graduating from high school in 1959. He was trained at the plant, a practice common at the time.
Over the next 30 years, the plant would have a succession of owners. All through the 1980s, as Japanese imports surged into America, the plant lost orders and jobs.
In 1992, the last owner, Giddings & Lewis, the nation's largest machine-tool company, shut it down and laid off Reese and the 75 remaining workers.
Reese was earning $12.31 an hour, a little less than $26,000 a year. After the layoff, he found work - and was let go again - at three other machine-tool plants in west-central Ohio. None paid what he earned at Lima, a town of 45,000 in the western part of the state.
The first, in Sidney, paid $10.41 an hour. The second, in Minster, paid $8.25. The third, also in Sidney, paid $9.50. Finally, in February 1996, he found work again, at a machine shop in Cridersville. The hourly pay was $8.25 an hour - or a third less than what he had been making four years before.
Reese had to drive 75 miles a day round trip to Sidney and 80 miles round trip to Minster. The last job is closer to home, requiring a 15-mile-a- day round trip. None of the jobs had health coverage or benefits the equal of those at Lima.
Although he's glad to be back at work, Reese wonders what the future holds. "When you get to be my age  a lot of places don't want you," he says.
That's a lesson he's learned every time he's been out of work.
"I tried for work at a couple of places that pay good wages, and I was turned down because of my age," Reese said. "They didn't say this, of course. But they sent me a letter and said they found somebody who was more qualified. That isn't what they meant. They meant they found somebody younger."
For the time being, Reese simply hopes he can hold out until he retires.
By ceding leadership of the machine-tool industry to Japan, Washington undermined the prospects of thousands of young workers who had hoped to find a future in the business - workers like Reese's grown son:
"I sent him through precision machining at a vocational school here for two years and that's what he's in now," Reese said. "But he's not making a big wage, either. He's probably making $6.50 to $7 an hour."
The current generation of young blue-collar workers has lost the option that their parents and grandparents had - to choose jobs from a variety of manufacturing plants in their hometowns.
If conditions prevailed as they were in the 1950s and 1960s, when manufacturing employment averaged 31 percent of all jobs across the two decades, factories today would employ 34.5 million men and women. Instead, manufacturing employment in the 1990s has averaged 18.4 million people a year. That's in a workforce of more than 110 million people.
THE PUBLIC GROWS SKEPTICAL
As a result of unrestrained imports, the American machine-tool industry has lost - most likely forever - its place as the number-one global producer of machine tools. But you would never know that reading news stories about the industry.
Business pages of newspapers and magazines, in reports on the industry, dwell on the positive side.
On Jan. 29, 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported that "machine-tool orders hit a 16-year high in 1995 amid signs that deteriorating domestic demand is finally beginning to overshadow strong gains in the export market. . . . Export orders more than doubled to $687.2 million from . . . 1994."
The New York Times, in a similar story that day, reported that "exports fueled much of last year's gain, surging 106 percent even as domestic orders slipped 4.3 percent."
Missing from both accounts was any mention of imports. In 1995, the United States racked up the largest trade deficit ever in machine tools - $2.3 billion - as imports swamped exports nearly three-to-one.
Such stories help explain why a growing number of people are skeptical about the news media. In interview after interview over the last two years, workers questioned economic reports they had read in newspapers and magazines or watched on TV.
They had every right to be skeptical. Consider Newsweek's ringing defense of unrestricted trade, published in July 1993 under the headline: "The Trashing of Free Trade: The new gospel argues that an open global economy is bad for America; Don't believe it."
While allowing that imports "have wiped out a lot of U.S. jobs," the article said that "even for industries that are supposedly being battered by foreign competition, the international economy is looking unusually friendly."
As one example of the positive side of free trade, the magazine cited Timberland Co., the manufacturer of boots, shoes, sandals and accessories:
"Timberland's plants in Tennessee, North Carolina and Puerto Rico rack up 40 percent of their shoe sales in Europe and Asia; executive Jeffrey Swartz says that lower U.S. costs for transportation and materials make up for higher U.S. wages."
That was July 1993.
Two years later, in June 1995, Timberland closed its manufacturing plant in Mountain City, Tenn., throwing 340 people out of work, and shuttered its Boone, N.C., plant, eliminating the jobs of 200 employees.
The company no longer makes any footwear in the United States. Contrary to the claims put forth in the Newsweek article that other advantages offset higher U.S. wages, Timberland decided that wages were all that counted.
Or as Roger Rydell, Timberland's vice president for corporate communications, put it at the time:
"Manufacturing is a global commodity. We will go where we can obtain the highest quality for the most competitive price."
Today, all the company's products are made in Europe, Asia, Puerto Rico or the Caribbean.
HOW WASHINGTON RESPONDS
There once was a time when the United States offered enough employment variety so that most everyone could find a job to match his or her skills.
Not everyone who graduates from high school can - or should - go to college. Not everyone can - or should - be employed in a high-tech industry. For such Americans, minimum-wage jobs at discount chain stores and fast-food restaurants shouldn't be the only opportunities that society offers.
In years gone by, government policies encouraged creation of a diversity of jobs that for decades contributed to social stability in towns and cities, large and small.
And here is why.
U.S. POLICY NO. 1: ELIMINATING MANUFACTURING JOBS
By the late 1970s, the American microwave-oven industry, one of the nation's newest and fastest-growing sectors, was hard hit by imports. Companies were reducing workforces. Profit margins were slipping. And plants that recently had operated at capacity were cutting back production.
The appliance that is a fixture today in 84 million American homes was invented in the United States. The Raytheon Corp. developed microwave technology as a defense contractor in the 1940s.
The first microwave ovens appeared in homes in the 1950s, but it was not until 1967, when Amana Refrigeration introduced a countertop model, that the industry really took off. From 60,000 units sold in the United States in 1970, the number jumped to 3.6 million in 1980. Last year, 8.6 million were sold.
For a short while, American companies had the market mostly to themselves. Then the Japanese, led by Matsushita, Hitachi, Toshiba, Sanyo and Sharp, began exporting in volume to the United States, often selling microwaves at prices lower than in Japan.
It was the patented Japanese formula to dominate sales of an array of consumer products in the world's richest market - the United States.
Imports of microwave ovens rose through the 1970s, starting from a minuscule number in the late 1960s and rising to 35 percent of the domestic market by 1980.
In 1972, Amana filed a complaint with the government contending that the Japanese were "dumping" countertop microwaves in America - selling them at less than similar models sold for in Japan, a violation of international trading rules. The Treasury Department - the agency then responsible for imposing additional duties on imported items - rejected the complaint, saying there was no evidence that the U.S. industry was being harmed by imports.
In 1979, when imports had climbed to more than a third of the U.S. microwave market, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the trade group for domestic microwave-makers, filed a similar complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Once again, the Japanese companies were accused of violating trade laws. The requested remedy was higher tariffs.
Although the trade commission made a preliminary finding agreeing with the domestic industry, the Treasury Department declined to levy a higher tariff.
Treasury's position was summed up in an Aug. 24, 1979, letter to the ITC on the microwave investigation by the department's acting general counsel, David R. Brennan: "The information developed during our preliminary investigation has led me to the conclusion that there is substantial doubt that an industry in the United States is being . . . injured by reason of the importation of this merchandise into the United States."
What happened to the industry that the Treasury Department claimed was not being injured by imports?
Of the 19 plants that manufactured microwave ovens in the United States in 1980, only four are left. And just two of those are owned by U.S. companies.
In 1980, when U.S. policymakers foresaw no harm to domestic producers, imports accounted for 35 percent of sales. By 1995, imports made up 85 percent of microwaves sold here.
As for jobs, about 4,500 U.S. production workers made microwaves in 1976, the peak year for employment. Today, fewer than 1,000 make them.
But the most significant number doesn't show up on any employment balance sheet. It is the number of jobs that should have been created in this industry - but weren't.
In the last 20 years, U.S. sales of microwave ovens increased from 1.8 million in 1976 to 8.6 million in 1995. But U.S. production today is about what it was 20 years ago.
At a time when microwave sales went up 378 percent, employment in the industry went down 78 percent. Potential jobs eliminated by U.S. government policy decisions: upward of 6,000.
U.S. POLICY NO. 2: PROTECTING JOBS ABROAD
As corporations have closed plants and slashed jobs in the United States, the federal government has stood by and watched. Time and again, Washington has adopted the position of Wall Street: There is little that government can do. It is the market at work.
There have been some exceptions. In 1994, when the jobs of thousands of phone workers who were making cordless telephones for AT&T were imperiled by trade regulations, the U.S. government rushed to their rescue.
But the jobs on the line were not in West Chicago; Shreveport, La.; Baltimore; San Leandro, Calif.; or any other U.S. city where AT&T has closed a factory or reduced jobs in the last decade.
They were in Malaysia.
The tropical peninsula in Southeast Asia is home for a growing volume of offshore manufacturing by U.S.-based multinational corporations.
Over the last decade, AT&T, by its own estimate, has eliminated about 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States and transferred much of the work to plants or suppliers in Asia and Latin America.
Like many global corporations, AT&T often no longer owns the foreign manufacturing plants that make products bearing the AT&T label. Rather, it contracts out the work and has the company logo affixed.
Such was the case with AT&T's manufacturing of cordless telephones in Malaysia. The corporation contracted with a company called S. Megga Telecommunications Ltd., whose principal investors have included a businessman in China and the city government of Dongguan, China, to manufacture the phones at a plant near the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. The phones were shipped to the United States for sale.
Under U.S. trade laws, communications companies are permitted to import cordless telephones from Malaysia duty-free, up to a specified limit. When that limit was surpassed in 1993, AT&T and other importers sought an exemption from the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to allow them to import more phones duty-free.
Without the waiver, AT&T warned, the Malaysian manufacturing industry would suffer. In other words, thousands of Malaysians would lose their jobs. As
Gerard G. Nelson, government affairs director of AT&T Consumer Products, explained in a March 2, 1994, letter to the U.S. Trade Representative:
"To compete in the United States consumer electronics market, AT&T and its competitors must aggressively manage the costs of their products.
One of the options available to AT&T and its competitors to compensate for an increase in product costs resulting from the imposition of import duties on cordless telephones manufactured in Malaysia would be to shift production of cordless telephones now occurring in Malaysia to other locations to take advantage of opportunities to achieve lower costs of production. Should such a shift occur, the nascent electronic manufacturing industry in Malaysia could suffer a material loss in revenues and employment."
Another cordless-telephone importer, Thomson Consumer Electronics Inc., was more blunt about the consequences to Malaysians if the U.S. government did not grant the waiver: "Malaysian employment in this industry will suffer a significant decline. . . . Manufacturing facilities will be forced to seek other locations . . . This outflow of investment will deter the growth of Malaysia's manufacturing sector."
Both importers assured the U.S. Trade Representative that no U.S. jobs would be lost by granting the waiver.
"AT&T is unaware of any significant United States manufacturing facilities devoted to the production of cordless telephones," wrote AT&T's Nelson. "Thus, no United States employment opportunities would be jeopardized by granting the waiver."
But if the waiver wasn't approved, AT&T warned, some U.S. jobs might be jeopardized.
The company said that the Malaysian imports provided a "significant product line" for AT&T's Consumer Products unit, which employed 6,000 people in the United States, ranging from product managers and engineers to sales managers and representatives.
"The jobs held by these people in the United States are ultimately dependent upon profitable product lines, including profitable cordless telephones," Nelson wrote. "For these reasons, AT&T believes that granting the requested waiver . . . will benefit all parties concerned - Malaysian workers and employers and United States consumers, businesses, and employees .. ."
On July 1, 1994, the Trade Representative's office approved the waiver.
A year and a half later, AT&T wiped out nearly half the 6,000 U.S. jobs that the company had said were dependent on securing the waiver.
On Jan. 24, 1996, AT&T's Consumer Products unit announced it would close all 338 AT&T Phone Center stores nationwide, throwing about 2,500 salespeople and managers out of work.
"We have decided to focus our business on what we do best, the design and manufacture of high-quality consumer communications products," said Homa Firouztash, Consumer Products' vice president of marketing, sales and product management. "We believe larger retailers can distribute our products more efficiently than we can."
THE JOBS OF AMERICA'S FUTURE
If manufacturing jobs are being eliminated, then what kinds of jobs are being created?
The theme sounded over and over by Washington and the business community is that America's workforce must become more high-tech. Labor-intensive industries, they say, will continue to move offshore and new, better-paying jobs requiring more education and training will take their place.
This view is widely held by economists, politicians, corporate executives and newspaper editorial pages.
As theories go, it sounds nice.
But reality is quite different.
By the government's own projections, there isn't going to be an abundance of high-tech jobs in the future.
The Department of Labor publishes a thick catalogue every two years on the job outlook for the coming decade. It is called The Occupational Outlook Handbook and it covers 250 occupations. They range from corporate executives, lawyers and engineers to locksmiths, dispatchers and detectives. For each career, the handbook estimates future demand for workers.
Based on data about jobs that have been created in recent years, the 1996-97 edition lists 20 occupations that are expected to have the greatest job growth over the next 10 years.
And what might those jobs be?
Heading the list are cashiers, followed by janitors, retail sales clerks, waiters and waitresses. Other leading job-generating fields are home-health aides, guards, nursing aides, truck drivers, secretaries, child-care workers and maintenance repairers.
Among the 20 occupations expected to generate the greatest job growth, only one could be considered high-tech - systems analysts.
Conclusion, based on the Labor Department projections:
High-paying jobs are becoming scarcer for the workforce as a whole and especially for one segment - women.
Research help was provided by Bill Allison. Also contributing to the research were John Brumfield, Harold Brubaker and Tirdad Derakhshani, as well as Inquirer library staffers Denise Boal, Frank Donahue, Joe Daley, Alletta Bowers, Sandra Simmons and Ed Voves.
Copyright 1996 PHILADELPHIA NEWSPAPERS INC.
May not be reprinted without permission.