The liberal division of the modern society and, in particular, the pro-union section considers the 1950’s decade as the golden period of the United States economy. These activists aim at adjusting modern policies and legislation, in order to return to the early times. They claim that there was wide job security, and America was developing and growing. The gap between the poor and the rich was also reducing with the middle and the lower classes’ standard of living being enhanced. Even conservatives view the past century to be an outstanding moment for the United States workers and America in general. Nevertheless, the lack of an enacted legislation and set of guidelines and policies makes it difficult to return to that economic realism today. The twenty first century is characterized by the global economy; moreover, nations are competing amongst themselves whilst individuals are rivaling all over the globe. For instance, in the United States, companies with unionized staffs are supposed to be innovative, in addition to selling its products and services at lover figures than the rivals around the world do, in order to prevent the business from downfall. This essay will focus on the situation of workers in the twenty first century and the various modifications that have taken place in the recent years. The object of the paper will encompass the changing economic conditions, changes in workers’ rights, shaky degree of economic disparity, amendment of working conditions, gain/loss of jobs, and reduction in unionization. Besides, the essay will also focus on how the lives of the United States workers are impacted by economic, social, and political factors today.
Workers Before the 21st Century
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Before the Industrial Revolution, many individuals in America were self-employed. They worked as artisans, farmers, or shopkeepers. At the time, they created a number of institutions, which ranged from local communities associations to grange and mechanics unions. Such associations provided their members with opportunities to find new jobs; they served as an avenue where they could share and exchange skills and knowledge. Generally, these organizations provided mutual assistance for workers. In the times after the Industrial Revolution, workers became more and more tied to their employers. It is worth noting that the way the Americans used to interpret the word ‘job’ changed drastically, after this revolution. Initially, the term was used to refer to the specific task that a worker performed. The skills of an individual used to be an extremely important asset, as it was the sole determiner of how much one could earn at the end of the day. After the Revolution, the term was used to describe the relationship that existed between the employer and employee.
There were radical changes in work patterns; the skills that had been considered as paramount hitherto became obsolete, as machines replaced human labor in almost all sectors of the economy. The social meaning and benefits that are associated with jobs is not a static phenomena but rather occurrences that have become a reality over the era of industrialization. In those early years, the old-age pensions and opportunities to climb the corporate ladder were a privilege of the minority of workers. With time, legislation has been passed to correct the situation, especially during the Truman era.
The Twenty First Century Worker
Studies have indicated that the twenty first century workers of the United States are very dissimilar with the old day labor force. Currently, labor unions have weakened while the numbers of union members have declined drastically. The tendency can be linked with the reduced power and influence of the present day’s unions. Benefits, such as workers’ pensions, have almost been done away with. In addition to this, a lot of people wish or have to work for numerous employers during their career time. On the other hand, earlier, people used to have only one job and one employer in their working life. For example, my grandmother worked for one company for over 30 years. This trend may develop as global competition is increasing, and there are high chances that it will continue to increase at countries, like Brazil, Russia, China, India, and even African countries, as these regions continue to register economic growth. This situation is backed up by the fact that the number of those willing and ready to work continues to increase geometrically. On the other hand, the American economic development promises to be anemic, over the coming years. Companies being conscious of the escalating costs will be loath to invest in labor. This situation goes as far as job security and fridge benefits are concerned. Modern technological advancement has made communication and outsourcing simple. Today, it is much easier to manage labor from abroad, which is cheaper, meaning there is no need to engage expensive workers in America. If the current trend continues, and signs point that the situation is not likely to change soon, the American workers will have to adjust to fit in the new system. For instance, while in the 20th century individuals worked in the same company for their entire working life, they would have to work for more than one company in the modern settings. Previously, individuals needed only to have a narrow range of skills in order to perform tasks at the working place. In this century, individuals will be forced to possess a wide range of skills to perform various tasks in different companies if there is a need. Aspects like job security, which initially were guaranteed and were viewed as a crucial thing in an individual’s career, will have little relevance in the future. In fact, no company may want to assure workers of their job security in years to come.
Modern people are also likely to witness drastic changes in the economy, as most companies will prefer to employ contract workers, as compared to permanent ones. This move will be made to avoid the long time commitment and related expenses. Eminent legislation, like the healthcare, is likely to create an addition burden to employers, and engaging contract workers will be the best solution to evade such difficulties. In the same time, location will be of little importance for workers. Although face-to-face interaction has certain benefits, especially to the employers, its importance will cease as technology grows and things, like outsourcing, continue to be irresistible for companies due to the availability of cheap labor from abroad.
Over the years, the wage for medium labor force in America has remained unchanged. For non-college educated workers, the wage has been reducing. In the same breath, the wages for those individuals with high qualification have been increasing. In the last two or three decades, economic changes have resulted in employment being polarized towards the highly and lowly skilled labor force. This trend has led to the emergence of the income inequality never witnessed before.
Changes Affecting the United States Workers in the 21st Century
There are a number of modifications that have impacted the United States workers. These changes encompass modifying economic conditions, globalization, changes in workers’ rights, modifying degree of economic disparity, changes in working conditions, gain/loss of jobs, and reduction in unionization. These changes are discussed herein.
Low Minimum Wages and Declining Rates of Unionization
Over the last two decades, the influence of labor unions has reduced. Current data indicate that the number of unionized workers is decreasing at an alarming rate. For instance, in the year 1970, about 28 per cent of nonagricultural workers in the U.S. belonged to a union. By the end of 2009, only a mingle 12 per cent of the workers were union members. When looking at the statistics more closely, the figures are even more worrying. For the first time in history, the number of government employed unionized workers was more than that of the private sector. The effect of minimum wages has been very frail. Even with the increase witnessed in the value of minimum wage, it has not been able to keep pace with the increasing inflation.
Minimum wage and unionization are of exceptional relevance, especially for those in the lower and middle wage distribution. It is a well-known fact that union contracts provide a cushion for older workers and, at the same time, raise the wages for the workers who have low skills as compared to those with high skills. The decrease in the minimum wage is closely linked to the prevailing income inequality in the U.S. In reality, this situation has made workers in the bottom and middle wage distribution more vulnerable to the aforementioned trends. In fact, they have retarded improvement of the living standards of the majority of American workers.
Advancements in information and communication technology have made the world a global village. This fact has increased interconnection and the capacity to pass on information at low cost to customers and suppliers all over the world dramatically. Currently, the countries that initially were not able to deal at the world economic stage are playing a vital role in the global trade in raw materials, manufactured commodities, and services.
At present, about 80 per cent of the U.S. workforce is employed in the service sector. With the availability of a broadband technology, services can be offered by workers from any part of the world making sure that their costs are minimized. Globalization does not mean that the emerging economies will actually take the job meant for Americans, but rather with well suited policies the U.S. can reap maximum benefits of globalization, which include economic productivity and progress. Such policies should be formulated to ensure competitiveness of the U.S. workers; otherwise, the balance may tilt in favor of the emerging economies.
Slowing Amplification in the Attainment of College Education
The advancement in technology in the current times has resulted in the increased demand of highly skilled and qualified labor. In the 20th century, the number of people, who obtained a specific education and proficiency, approximately equaled the demand for such people by employers. Nevertheless, studies indicate that, in the current century, the growth in the number of skilled employees has slowed down. This situation is a direct result of the fact that college education that has been financed by the government in the prior centuries is currently being paid for by individuals themselves. The fact means that the affordability to pay college fees is the determinant of person’s level of education. In the current depressing economic conditions, many individuals, especially the middle and low classes, are unable to pay for this service. The fact has resulted in decline in the number of the high skilled workers required by employers. Research indicates that the number of Americans who have a college degree has persisted to increase but at a declining rate, and this slowdown is specifically conspicuous among the Black men and women.
In the 20th century, the United States was the leader in terms of the number of college graduates. However, in the 21st century, this figure has vanished fundamentally. Such countries as France, Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Sweden reached the same number of students attaining a college degree as the United States did. Number of college graduates in such countries as Japan, Norway, and Korea exceeded the United States results. This decrease in college graduates assists in explaining the difficulty the United States faces in increasing its college graduates share.
In the United States, lack of a college degree limits a person at work-related clusters, which pay low salary. This state of affairs means that most individuals who fail to finish college education run the risk of remaining in the low or middle class.
Modifying Economic Conditions and Loss of Jobs
For the United States workers, the changing economic conditions, such as the Great Depression, imply that the creation of job opportunities remains a major economic problem for most Americans. Current unemployment rates are similar to the levels of the 1980-1982 recessions, with the youth and lifelong unemployment reaching their greatest level since the time of the Great Depression. Even though, the second Great Depression formally ended in 2009, the majority of Americans persist to suffer economical hardships, as a result of unemployment that has affected many families, as most people are out of employment today.
Besides, the modifying economic conditions have resulted in high costs of living. Workers who are also consumers are necessitated to part with much more of their incomes while purchasing consumer goods. This is greatly linked to the high inflations, economic recession, and depression. Workers are also affected significantly by the housing crises. With the low wages being paid by the employers, life has really become difficult. In fact, this has retarded the improvement of the living standards of the majority of American workers.
In the 20th century and especially in the 1990’s, set of policies that was enacted made a difference. The policy generated the conditions whereby healthy creation of employment opportunities created a firm labor market. In addition, the policy assisted in the growth of income for the bottom line workers by increasing minimum wages and rising tax credit on the income tax. Nevertheless, this achievement was wiped out after the Great Depression.
Changes in Workers’ Rights and Working Conditions
In the 21st century, employers are providing their employees with proper working conditions. When compared to the prior centuries, the 21st century worker has a right to claim a good working environment and protective clothing, especially those who are working in the construction and manufacturing industries. In the United States, the workers’ unions necessitate employers to ensure that the work places are healthy and safe to work at. In addition to this fact, today, people work for numerous organizations during their career time. The situation is different from the prior centuries when people used to work for only one company, in their entire working life. Today, individuals have a right to move from one company to another in search of employment if they feel that they will be much happier and more comfortable at their new work.
It is essential for policy makers, experts, and advocates focusing on the long-lasting structural modifications that are affecting the United States workers. They need to build up a broader inventory of pertinent policy, which may reverse or lessen some of the noted worrying trends and challenges. These forces necessitates a wide range of policy responses, which enhance the skills of workers and aid amplified educational accomplishment, support participation in labor force for people, who do not enjoy any employment opportunities, as well as enhancing the demand and productivity of the American workers via amplifications in capital investments, in the country. In addition, such factors as ensuring certain workers’ financial security should also be put into consideration, in order to strengthen the position of the workers’ unions.
It is likely that the United States labor market, as well as the American workers, will be facing long-lasting challenges, in the nearest future. These challenges will range from modifying economic conditions, declines in unionization, loss of jobs, and globalization which mirror the fact that the global economy has changed radically. This change has resulted in great modifications, in the lives of the United States workers. However, America has not been ready completely to face and manage the challenges of acting in response to these modifications yet.