Cornell University

Institute for Compensation Studies™

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News

January 27 2012

Job creation and destruction and technology’s impact on the world of work.

Environmentalists advocate for stewardship of our natural resources. Who, why and how should we steward our “human resources” and employment? The U.S. employment picture continues to look bleak. Many are focused on this as a dire but short-term problem resulting from the lingering effects of recession. Increasingly, other forces at play are being recognized as contributors to unemployment and underemployment

It seems easier than ever for companies to cut costs and increase profits by employing technologies, rather than people, to do the work. This past decade marks the only 10 year period in the last 80 years when employment in the U.S. has declined at the same time that productivity has risen. While manufacturing appears to be recovering from the recession, employment in manufacturing is not. Inventors are creating new and better robot technologies that could replace service sector workers, such as waiters or homecare aides, as well. In the last decade, U.S. productivity growth has been more than 2.5% higher than in the 1970’s, 1980’s or 1990’s, but the economy did not add to its total job count (the first time since the Great Depression). As is always the case, however, technology is not acting alone. Arguably, norms regarding employees’ tenure with a single company have changed, as has the “acceptability” of letting workers go. Are we “wasting away” jobs without recognizing the consequences in the same way we did our energy or air and water resources before the birth of the environmental movement?

The Institute for Compensation Studies has launched an initiative to support more and better informed public discourse on the issue of “employment sustainability” in general, and job creation and destruction and technology’s impact on the world of work, in particular.

Select related resources:

Roundtable: 2013 Cornell ILR Roundtable on Employment and Technology, April 12, 2013

Webcast: Are The Jobs Ever Coming Back? - Management priorities, market incentives, workplace technology and sustainable employment, January 25, 2012.

ICS Research: Job Loss and Effects on Firms and Workers, Kevin F. Hallock, Michael R. Strain, and Douglas Webber

Also at Cornell: Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) -- advancing research and cultivating collaborations. ACSF advances multidisciplinary research in Energy, the Environment and Economic Development, and cultivates innovative collaborations within and beyond Cornell to foster a sustainable future for all.