Education and the low end of work

· November 4, 2018

Interesting conversation this morning on the changing nature of work at the bottom end of earnings, and education. 

Outside of the direct educational aspect, a lot or schooling effectively teaches kids to put up with being bored, and to follow instructions. This is largely unacknowedged socially useful training for all kinds of work, from white collar office drudgery to blue collar, repetitive manufacturing. 

A lot of discussion has been around how this form of education doesn’t do a great job of preparing kids for the current and coming worlds of work, but the focus is often on high-end careers and STEM disciplines. I suspect it also doesn’t do a good job of preparing people for the opposite end of the scale either. 

Low wage industrial work was largely addressed by labor organization, which means a lot of the low wage jobs now are service industry - waiters, cleaners, store clerks and so on. These jobs have always been somewhat precarious, the world of zero-hour contracts in the UK or sub-minimum-wage tip dependency in the US, but my sense is that they are getting even more so. Uber drivers, cleaners that work via an app based service, and other app based temp work systems have given workers flexibility at the cost of whatever remaining bits of stability there were. 

People finding work through these services have to manage their own time and earnings, taxes, healthcare (particularly in the US) and so on. Very little prepares people for these considerations, and the environment is one of stress and somewhat complex planning, rather than monotonous boredom.