As much as the rest of the world has chosen to look down on Japan in its post bubble era for its failure to clean up its banking mess and resultant stagnant economy, it has managed its relative decline in status with considerable aplomb. It still has the longest life expectancy in the world, universal health care, not bad unemployment (3% to 5%) and ranks well on other social indicators And now that the US is going down the Japan path, it might behoove us to take heed of their example.
One of the striking difference between the cultures is importance ascribed to job creation. The Japanese understand full well that the workplace for many people is a far more important community to them than where they live, and so in contrast to the US, generating and preserving employment is a high priority. For example, Japanese entrepreneurs are revered for generating jobs, while in the US, personal wealth is proof of success.
McKinsey had Yankelovich survey the attitudes of young people a decade ago, and even then, the results were pretty disturbing. Yankelovich projected that college graduates would average 11 jobs by the time they were 38 (!), yet found they were demanding of their employers, wanting frequent feedback (as in lots of attention) and quick advancement. But if you are not likely to be around for very long, no one is likely to want to invest in you all that much (McKinsey, which was competing for a narrow slice of supposed “top” talent and not offering Wall Street sized pay opportunities, might have been more inclined to indulge this sort of thing than other employers).
But these rapid moves from job to job, and now a much weaker job market, are producing behaviors that old farts like me find troubling. One is rampant careerism. I’ve run into too many polished people under the age of 35 where the veneer is very thin. It isn’t hard to see the opportunism, the shameless currying of favor, and ruthless calculations of whom to help and whom to kick, including throwing former patrons under the bus when they are no longer useful (I can cite specific examples of the last behavior). The world has always had its Sammy Glicks, but now we seem to be setting out to create them on a mass basis.
The economic effects are also not pretty. A 30 year mortgage made sense when people would spend a decade or more with a single employer. And more frequent job changes means not only more total time unemployed over one’s working years, but also the very high odds of falling out of a highly or even moderately paid career path to a much lower one as the work place continues to be restructured.
A New York Times piece tonight describes the latest stage of this sorry devolution: “job jugglers” who hold down multiple part time jobs to make a living. This sort of thing used to happen only to lower income people, artists, or people who live in resort areas. The article makes clear that this is often a hand-to-mouth, high stress existence, although the interviewees put a brave face on it. And we aren’t necessarily talking having one income source in the days and another in the evenings: three of the individuals featured had four jobs. Even then, they barely cover their expenses.
Yet it could indeed be worse:
Still, Ms. [Mia] Branco, who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in musical theater from American University in 2009, says she feels lucky to be employed at all. “The majority of the jobs I have right now are because people were laid off and they didn’t want to hire back full-time employees,” she said. “My willingness to have a hodgepodge schedule makes me more
But the “marketable” benefits are only short term.
A national study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies found that young women who worked primarily in part-time jobs did not make higher wages in their 30s than in their 20s…The reason is that part-time jobs generally provide fewer training opportunities and often don’t put workers on a track for advancement.
And many of these jobs are clearly stopgaps:
More college graduates are working in second jobs that don’t require college degrees, part of a phenomenon called “mal-employment.” In short, many baby-sitters, sales clerks, telemarketers and bartenders are overqualified for their jobs.
Last year, 1.9 million college graduates were mal-employed and had multiple jobs, up 17 percent from 2007, according to federal data. Almost half of all college graduates have a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.
I see this in my own building. One of the new doormen, a clean cut, high energy fellow, is a college graduate who is going to work on his graduate degree at night. One who has been here about a year also went to college. That was unheard of until recently.
Even though the evidence is that these jugglers would do better financially and probably in terms of lifestyle if they got on a career path, some seemed to have been imprinted by their multi-job routine and seemed loath to give it up, even though they recognized that it is not conducive to having a family.
These part-time jobs may just be another feature of this recession, but the odds are that it will become yet another aspect of the “new normal”.