The great mismatch
In the new world of work, unemployment is high yet skilled and talented people are in short supply. Matthew Bishop explains
Sep 10th 2011 | from the print edition
“FAR AND AWAY the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,” observed Theodore Roosevelt, then America’s president, in a Labour day speech on September 7th 1903. Today the billions of people the world over who seek that prize are encountering simultaneous feast and famine. Even in developed economies that are currently struggling, many people, perhaps more than ever, are doing the job of their dreams, taking home both a good salary and a sense of having done something worthwhile. In booming emerging countries such as China and India, many at least have a better job than they ever thought possible. Yet at the same time in much of the world unemployment is persistently high and many of the jobs on offer are badly paid, onerous and unsatisfying.
This has serious political implications, not least for America’s current president, Barack Obama, who risks losing his own dream job because of his perceived failure to have created enough work for his fellow citizens. As Mr Obama entered the White House in January 2009, the country’s unemployment rate was about to climb above 8%, up from around 5% a year earlier. It has not recovered since and is currently around 9%. Until the presidential election in November next year Mr Obama is likely to be dogged by the phrase “jobless recovery”—always assuming that the recovery does not double-dip into an even more jobless recession.