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The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs and Incomes

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For decades, the idea that more education will lead to greater individual and national prosperity has been a cornerstone of developed economies. Indeed, it is almost universally believed that college diplomas give Americans and Europeans a competitive advantage in the global knowledge wars. Challenging this conventional wisdom, The Global Auction forces us to reconsider our For decades, the idea that more education will lead to greater individual and national prosperity has been a cornerstone of developed economies. Indeed, it is almost universally believed that college diplomas give Americans and Europeans a competitive advantage in the global knowledge wars. Challenging this conventional wisdom, The Global Auction forces us to reconsider our deeply held and mistaken views about how the global economy really works and how to thrive in it. Drawing on cutting-edge research based on a major international study, the authors show that the competition for good, middle-class jobs is now a worldwide competition--an auction for cut-priced brainpower--fueled by an explosion of higher education across the world. They highlight a fundamental power shift in favor of corporate bosses and emerging economies such as China and India, a change that is driving the new global high-skill, low-wage workforce. Fighting for a dwindling supply of good jobs will compel the middle classes to devote more time, money, and effort to set themselves apart in a bare-knuckle competition that will leave many disappointed. The authors urge a new conversation about the kind of society we want to live in and about the kind of global economy that can benefit workers, but without condemning millions in emerging economies to a life of poverty. The Global Auction is a radical rethinking of the ideas that stand at the heart of the American Dream. It offers a timely expose of the realities of the global struggle for middle class jobs, a competition that threatens the livelihoods of millions of American and European workers and their families.


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For decades, the idea that more education will lead to greater individual and national prosperity has been a cornerstone of developed economies. Indeed, it is almost universally believed that college diplomas give Americans and Europeans a competitive advantage in the global knowledge wars. Challenging this conventional wisdom, The Global Auction forces us to reconsider our For decades, the idea that more education will lead to greater individual and national prosperity has been a cornerstone of developed economies. Indeed, it is almost universally believed that college diplomas give Americans and Europeans a competitive advantage in the global knowledge wars. Challenging this conventional wisdom, The Global Auction forces us to reconsider our deeply held and mistaken views about how the global economy really works and how to thrive in it. Drawing on cutting-edge research based on a major international study, the authors show that the competition for good, middle-class jobs is now a worldwide competition--an auction for cut-priced brainpower--fueled by an explosion of higher education across the world. They highlight a fundamental power shift in favor of corporate bosses and emerging economies such as China and India, a change that is driving the new global high-skill, low-wage workforce. Fighting for a dwindling supply of good jobs will compel the middle classes to devote more time, money, and effort to set themselves apart in a bare-knuckle competition that will leave many disappointed. The authors urge a new conversation about the kind of society we want to live in and about the kind of global economy that can benefit workers, but without condemning millions in emerging economies to a life of poverty. The Global Auction is a radical rethinking of the ideas that stand at the heart of the American Dream. It offers a timely expose of the realities of the global struggle for middle class jobs, a competition that threatens the livelihoods of millions of American and European workers and their families.

30 review for The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs and Incomes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    There are certain ideas that we tend to accept more or less without question. One of those is that education is an unequivocal good. That is, that despite what people say, you can’t actually be over-educated. It would like being too rich or too healthy. But that isn’t really the argument that is often presented about education or what education is meant to do. The view has been that the world can be divided into two new great camps – body nations and head nations. The body nations, China and Ind There are certain ideas that we tend to accept more or less without question. One of those is that education is an unequivocal good. That is, that despite what people say, you can’t actually be over-educated. It would like being too rich or too healthy. But that isn’t really the argument that is often presented about education or what education is meant to do. The view has been that the world can be divided into two new great camps – body nations and head nations. The body nations, China and India mostly, will do most of the work. We’ve seen this already as industrial jobs have moved away from high labour-cost nations to low cost developing countries at an astonishing rate. What the ‘head’ countries need to do, we are constantly told, is to become increasingly well educated. There may be a limit to how many factory jobs that there can ever be, but jobs based on ‘ideas’ are potentially limitless. Get out there and get learning… Education, then, is a panacea – and since it works in a way that is mostly to the benefit of the person receiving that education, it is completely reasonable to expect those people themselves to meet the lion’s share of the cost of providing that education. Particularly given that a tertiary education is correlated with so many good things, better health and wealth being but two. So, what is wrong with this picture? Well, mostly it is that it misunderstands/misrepresents how global economic exchanges and processes actually work. Anyone who thinks China and India are going to be happy being the ‘body’ nations hasn’t really been paying attention. Not only are their universities improving, they are turning out graduates in numbers (particularly in subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – STEM) that make ‘head’ nations look, well, dizzy at best. As is said at one point here, you can train an engineer to be a manager, but that is not likely to be true the other way around. One of the most interesting bits of this book was the discussion of the decline of STEM students in the US. Part of the reason given is that students are responding rationally to the assumed fact that all fields of education are equally likely to dump buckets of money onto graduates – and so you might as well get a degree in Business Admin or Law or Design, rather than, say, Physics. Except, what is shown in this book is that there is a much more interesting thing happening, that even those students who take STEM subjects tend to not end up working in the fields in which they are trained for – that is, even for the few who do get a degree in these subjects there is already an oversupply in the actual economy. They are one part of a much bigger problem, and that is that the promise of higher education is mostly based on myth: wishful, if not magic, thinking. The problem is that despite a huge shift in most ‘head’ countries – with young people forced to stay on in education for years longer than ever before – there has been hardly any shift at all in the number of jobs that actually need those higher qualifications. Furthermore, rather than knowledge jobs being a simple way into the ‘middle class’ – the whole point of capitalism is to find ways to drive down costs and to simplify work processes to the point of banality for the vast majority of workers (think Marx’s alienation of labour) – knowledge workers included. So, rather than the knowledge revolution / knowledge economy seeing a huge swelling of the middle classes, it has in fact seen a huge increase in what could be called the white collar working poor. This has all occurred on the basis of ‘digital Taylorism’ – where ‘knowledge work’ has been transformed (through business process analysis and re-engineering) into ‘working knowledge’. That is, call any service company and rather than talking to a ‘knowledge worker’ on a middle class wage, you are likely to engage with a charming machine (Press One for billing enquiries, two for service faults and three to be told again how important your business is to us). You are likely to only ever talk to a ‘knowledge worker’ if your enquiry doesn’t fit, that is, really is ‘exceptional’ – and then you are just as likely to be put through to someone in a call centre in a ‘body’ nation than locally, that is, where smart people are cheaper than in the ‘head’ countries. It is not that education is useless. Quite the opposite. It is just that today in the head countries so many people have turned to education as a way to try to secure employment that all it has actually been achieved is credential inflation. Now you need a degree to flip hamburgers. The dissatisfaction this is likely to cause is something we can only watch with interest over coming decades. Companies continue to employ students from the most elite universities in real ‘knowledge jobs’, the rest then compete for jobs they could have gotten a generation ago without finishing high school. Naturally, the gap between the wages achieved by graduates and non-graduates keeps increasing, but that is because the wages of non-graduates are plummeting, rather than those of graduates improving. Capitalism is about managing labour costs (read, driving then down) – knowledge was meant to be a way to escape the logic of capitalism, smarter workers being more productive and there by deserving of better remuneration and therefore also to provide a safety net based on merit. The logic of capitalism has reshuffled that particular deck. Some quotes: Schooled in the belief that “learning equals earning,” many Americans have unrealistic expectations of a world that does not owe them a living. 5 We should not be surprised by this because, if knowledge is a key source of company profit, then the task of business is not to pay more for it but to pay less. 6 These trends result in many college-educated Americans becoming part of a high-skill, low-wage workforce. Previously, differences in income were assumed to reflect a meritocratic pyramid of individual achievement. This relationship has never been straightforward, but it is now in crisis as the relationships among jobs, rewards, and entitlements are being reconfigured. 9 This faith in the endless potential to create middle-class jobs for those who invested in education resembles a secular religion. 15 In the early 1970s, there were four times more bachelor’s degrees awarded to American students studying engineering than communication and journalism. This picture dramatically changed as more students now graduate in journalism or related programs than engineering. 37 the STEM workforce in the United States totals about 4.8 million, which amounts to less than a third of the 15.7 million workers who hold at least one STEM degree. The fact that large numbers of STEM graduates have entered jobs in non-STEM-related occupations is a timely reminder that solutions to wider economic issues can rarely, if ever, be solved through education alone. 38 increasing efforts are being made to translate knowledge work into working knowledge where what is in the minds of employees is captured and codified in the form of digital software 66 Although the level of surveillance and the nature of the work vary considerably within contact centers, new information technologies give employers the tools to micromanage through the use of software programs that monitor e-mails and telephone conversations. 74 Permission to think is restricted to a relatively small group of knowledge workers 75 we can distinguish three types of knowledge worker: developers, demonstrators, and drones. 81 “We are very keen to get the best talent, so we go after the elite . . . in other words, we want to get the top half percentile of university students...we’re not interested in the rest.” 94 Using a comprehensive U.S. database, he calculates that between 22 percent and 29 percent of all U.S. service sector jobs could be offshored with little or no degradation in quality. 109 more people on the planet are gaining access to high skills, and within a context of shareholder capitalism, the inevitable consequence is price competition. 111 Trump cards held by workers in the competition for high-value work have been reshuffled as they have been throughout the history of capitalism. Governments have a political duty to privilege their citizens, but capitalism has no such loyalty. 113 The 70 percent of the American workforce that does not have a college degree saw their entry-level wage drop from $13 to $11 per hour between 1973 and 2005, which is extraordinary. In Britain, average wages for the unskilled increased marginally but only through the state supplementing the wages of low-income workers. In both countries, around 25 percent of workers are paid poverty wages. 116 governments like to hear because it supports the claim that learning is earning, as average college-educated employees earned 75 percent more than noncollege workers in 2005, an increase from a figure of 68 percent in 1997. But it cannot be taken to indicate the rising value of a college education because it may reflect the declining incomes of those who did not go to college. 117 For most, however, a college education has failed to deliver any additional premium on investments in human capital compared to those in the job market in the 1970s. 117 The benefits of a bachelor’s degree at the top end of the wage distribution increased, but at the bottom end, they have sharply decreased. 118 This in part explains why a third of university students in England who had taken out government loans to pay for their studies since the introduction of tuition fees in 1998 have failed to repay anything. Their earnings were too low to reach the modest income threshold at which repayment is triggered. 118 The bureau also shows that the proportion of the workforce requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher is expected to remain almost unchanged between 2006 and 2016, 123 The share of America’s youth graduating with a college degree grew from 17 percent in 1980 to 36 percent by 2000 and is expected to rise to 43 percent by 2020. 133 But if everyone adopts similar tactics, then no one gets ahead; it simply raises the entry bar or increases the number of hurdles. “If everyone stands on tiptoe, nobody gets a better view.” But if you don’t stand on tiptoe, there is no chance of seeing. 135 Credentials, jobs, and income are all positional goods; what counts is how individuals are positioned relative to others, given a limited supply of places at highly ranked universities and with leading employers. 136 Today, economic security involves a lifelong campaign to stay fit in a job 142 Inquisitive learning that is driven by an interest in knowledge and learning for its own sake is squeezed out by consumer-driven demand for acquisitive learning.145

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve Montgomery

    This is a book that challenges the how we view are education system and will change the way you view your future and the paradigm of "I need a income, I need a job" to "I need an income how do I get an income" If you work in education this book is a must read, If you are thinking of join a network marketing company this a book you must read!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tara Nelson

    interesting read on how the class system and education system and jobs in America are now competing with Better education systems and better job training around the world

  4. 5 out of 5

    John Todd

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  6. 5 out of 5

    Zach

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

  8. 5 out of 5

    Derek Fong

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Godfrey

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ridmo

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chad Fairey

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aleksi

  13. 5 out of 5

    Willie Pinckney

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adele Barlow

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karate1kid

  17. 4 out of 5

    Martin H

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stockfish

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mateusz

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeremiah McKinley

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matías Scaglione

  22. 5 out of 5

    Reid Perkins

  23. 4 out of 5

    Explorer123

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shane Krukowski

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eugene

  28. 4 out of 5

    Olaf Budek

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tom Bice

  30. 4 out of 5

    Middlethought

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