In Jeremy Rifkin's passage entitled "Work: A blueprint for social harmony in a world without jobs", Rifkin believes that blue and collar workers will be cut out of the work force because they will be replaced by machines in new technological generation. Since the high-technology is being introduced into a wide variety of work situations, millions of blue and white-collar workers are forcing into temporary jobs and unemployment lines. Nobel-winning economist Wassily Leontief has warned that with the introduction of increasing sophisticated computers, "the role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractors."
Obviously, the effect of the computer revolution and re-engineering of the workplace in manufacturing sector is more than elsewhere. In this article, management consultant Peter Drucker estimates that "employment in manufacturing is going to continue dropping to less than 12 percent of the U.S. workforce in the next decade." Although the workforce continues to decline, manufacturing productivity is soaring. Economists deemed that loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. because of foreign competition, cheap labor markets abroad, and automation.
In fact, most retail outlets have used electronic bar codes and scanners to increased the efficiency of cashier. Therefore, it absolutely reduced certain number of position. Many industry analysts are predicting that electronic home shopping will replace more and more of the large-sized retail market. However, it's not just blue-collar jobs that are eliminating. As a result of advances in automation, more and more white-collar and service work are taken over by machines. For examples, automatic teller machines replaced nearly 25 percent of banks in the U.S. by the year 2000; secretaries are declining gradually as computers, e-mail, and fax machines produced.
On the contrary, optimists counter with the argument that additional employment will be provided by the new products and services of the high-technology revolution and they point to the fact that earlier in the century the automobile made the horse and buggy obsolete but created millions of new jobs. In truth, the new products and services replace much more employment than they provide. As machines takes over more work, Americans fear for their financial futures. So the violent crime is going to increase as the new industrial revolution spreads through the economy.
As employment is likely to be phased out, Rifkin makes three recommendations to restructure the work force. In his first recommendation, he suggests an idea, which is from Europe, that a shorter workweek for employees and 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule for the plant. Employees would get the same wages for working fewer hours. So they are willingness to accept flexible hours. As a result of the new plant schedule, production has tripled. By more workers with shorter workweek, the number of unemployment would be decrease. Therefore, American business leaders' opposition to a shorter workweek might be defeat by giving generous tax credits to companies that shift to shorter workweek and hire additional workers.
In Rifkin's second recommendation, he suggests the state and local governments to provide an income voucher for those unemployed workers who are willing to be retrained and placed in community-building jobs in the nonprofit sector. This recommendation is based on "Third Sector" which is known as civil society, the social economy, or the volunteer sector. The Third Sector offers a great source of work and livelihood for the millions of unemployed workers in the traditional economic system. Also, the government could award grants to nonprofit organizations to help them recruit and train the poor for jobs because greater employment would generate more taxes for government. Moreover, a rise in employment would decrease the crime rate and lower the cost of maintaining law and order.
In Rifkin's third recommendation, he suggests to grant a tax credit for every hour a person volunteers to a nonprofit organization that helps their community because it would encourage more Americans to spend more time in social contribution. While a tax credit would mean a loss of tax revenue to the government, decreasing the need for expensive government programs to cover needs and services easily handled by volunteer efforts would compensate it. Some people might argue that giving a tax credit would lose the spirit of volunteerism. Actually, giving a tax credit for volunteering hours would only encourage the philanthropic spirit. However, a tax credit could boost Americans participation in charitable activities.
After all, I think those three recommendations that Rifkin suggests are very good ideas. I believe that a shorter workweek, new work in the nonprofit sector, and tax credits for volunteer work are the ways to cope with massive job loss. Nevertheless, I think a shorter workweek is more effective than the other two ideas because it would benefit workers and companies. By shortening the workweek and hiring more workers, it would insure a great opportunity for the unemployed people to get a job. There are no effects on anyone in this idea because all the employees would get the same wages for less work, companies would increase their manufacturing productivity, and the government would generate the tax revenue. In additional, this idea was using successfully in Europe. Therefore, I believe it would be useful to restructure our workforce.