MFG 2.0

Those Days Are Over. Blame Technology, Says Robert Reich

Interesting blog post from Robert Reich, the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor (under Bill Clinton) and one of the Wall Street Journal's top business thinkers of 2008. (Of course, 2008 was a horrifilcally bad year for business thinking.)

In a post entitled The Future of Manufacturing, GM and American Workers, Reich references a study from a that says that, between 1995-2002, increases in productivity meant the decline of jobs in manufacturing.

"The United States wasn't even the biggest loser. We lost about 11% of our manufacturing jobs in that period, but the Japanese lost 16% of theirs. Even developing nations lost factory jobs: Brazil suffered a 20% decline, and China had a 15% drop."

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He takes what I'd call a Friedman-ite "flat-earther" view towards what the economy will look like, post-recovery.

"We should stop pining after the days when millions of Americans stood along assembly lines and continuously bolted, fit, soldered or clamped what went by. Those days are over. . . When the U.S. economy gets back on track, many routine jobs won't be returning--but new jobs will take their place. A quarter of all Americans now work in jobs that weren't listed in the Census Bureau's occupation codes in 1967."

While this may be true, I believe that this brave new workforce, engaged in occupations that Reich calls "symbolic analytic work, because most of it has to do with analyzing, manipulating and communicating through numbers, shapes, words, ideas" -- are actually less "productive" than the traditional manufacturing that he has all but consigned to the dustbin of history.

TAGS: Innovation
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