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IPFS News Link • Employee and Employer Relations

The Easy Jobs Are (Mostly) Gone

•, by Charles Hugh Smith

Since we only keep track of what we measure, whatever isn't easily quantifiable isn't even on the radar screen. While we measure the number and type of jobs and the percentage of the populace who are employed, etc., the less quantifiable characteristics of work and jobs are not widely recognized, discussed or understood.

One such difficult-to-quantify element is how demanding jobs are today compared to the same work a generation or two ago. Take the "burger-flipping" fast-food jobs that are so often dismissed as low-skill work. What few outside the fast-food industry seem to realize is how demanding "burger-flipping" work is now. It is a high-pressure "factory" optimized for production of fast-food meals with the minimum staff.

It is not easy work. Many people can't keep up the pace and perform all that is demanded.

The same can be said for many other jobs that are assumed to be low-skill and therefore "easy." In the relentless drive to reduce costs, staffing is trimmed, experienced workers let go and replaced with trainees, and more work is piled on those still on staff.

This is equally true of high-skilled jobs: staffing is reduced, open positions remain open for months or years, the work experience and knowledge of those retiring isn't matched by the often poorly trained replacement workers.

Managers who once had an admin assistant are now their own admin. The work that was once divvied up among three jobs now falls on one worker.

The obsessive drive to increase profits by reducing labor costs has been the norm for the past 20 years. Globalization is one dynamic pushing ceaseless cost-cutting, and so is the ever-higher costs of labor overhead, with employee healthcare being the primary source of staggering increases in the cost of employees. Note the employees don't see this cost; they see their take-home pay stagnating but not the soaring costs of healthcare insurance paid by their employer.