Here is my critique of Rainer Strack’s Ted Talk, titled “The workforce crisis of 2030 — and how to start solving it now”
Strack argues that due to an aging population, countries like Germany will face a huge labor shortage, and the worldwide competition for talent and labor is going to increase. He argues that automation will displace some jobs but will create more or equal amount of jobs, such that the demographic decline is the main shifting variable leading to talent shortage.
The author is just plain wrong.
(1) Why are wages currently stagnant if we expect a labor shortage? (he needs to make a case that future wages will have to increase with a labor shortage, but there is no evidence for it) Similarly, why are corporate profits exploding?
(2) Typical for a consultant, he only cares about the ‘talented’ people (e.g. engineers, consultants, bankers). What about the majority of workers, who are cashiers, security guards, restaurant servers, cooks, cleaners, janitors, primary school teachers etc.?
(3) If machines are not going to be just job-destroying but job-creating, why do I not see much of the job creation in the labor-intensive and skilled sector? Again, most jobs are relatively unskilled, and most of which have been around for quite a long time (e.g. supermarket clerks). The few jobs at the top end are computer programmers or automotive engineers, but these are a handful of position, not something the vast majority of people will look forward to as a career.
(4) The author ends with an emotional appeal to workers being people that need to be valued, and not just costs that need to be cut. That is very touching, but it is more a wish that is put in every fancy business consulting report that is used to stroke the egos of human resource managers, and not what capitalist firms think about when they make decisions about how to compete, where to invest and where to save costs. The ‘high-road’ strategy of paying employees well to elicit effort has long been not in use among most employers in Germany or in the US, or many other parts of the world, quite frankly.