Your Role in an Unknown Future

There is talk of the European Union breaking up due to burgeoning debt, America’s stagflation and overheating Asian economies. It seems like anything that can go wrong, goes wrong. However, this is not the time to give up, but time to face the hardships and carry on.

As Brown students, we live in a sheltered environment. We take classes that “look interesting,” eat in college dining halls or on Thayer Street and go down to the mall for a movie or two. But how many times do we ask ourselves how effective our education and everyday interactions with students and professors are?

Professionalization is a word Brown administration hates, but it is what this country needs. We are going through a time of high unemployment, and I believe it is not a frictional or cyclical form of unemployment, but a structural one. Structural unemployment is long-term and occurs as a result of imbalance between the occupational needs of the economy and skills of workers. You are, after all, a unique product, and the job market deems your value based on qualities you have developed.

America’s structural unemployment problem is further escalated due to the extremely competitive labor wages in emerging markets like China, India and Vietnam. For a company to exist in today’s fiercely competitive market and survive, it will have to cut costs. If it finds skilled and educated labor available in a third world country with attractive tax havens, the company will not hesitate to export jobs.

Instead of calling for protectionist policies like tariffs and exchange rate manipulation, perhaps we should recast America as a nation of doers and high-level thinkers who can apply theoretical knowledge to create value.

On the macroeconomic level, we should petition our local congressmen to reduce corporate tax rates and Goliath-like regulations for companies to invest in America, keep their cash here, build infrastructure and train people. Furthermore, we should raise our voices against policies that destroy the value of the dollar through printing more money or lending at next to zero percent interest rate. If you are really into spring cleaning, why not throw out minimum wage laws? That way, wages are also determined by forces of demand and supply, and we do not have excesses in a failing industry. By doing this we will avoid the fate of being trapped in a long-term unemployment situation where we have to wait for the world’s wages to rise and meet American standards of roughly $8 an hour.

As students, we should perhaps evaluate our curriculum with skills that cater to a career and demand courses if they are unavailable. An example could be demanding a higher-level accounting class that prepares one for the Certified Public Accountant test.

The world has shrunk exponentially due to technological advancements, and the Internet has opened up new business avenues and allows for startups to be based in any country with a working broadband connection. Perhaps we should also be flexible about the place where we work. Who knows – maybe you will end up working and living a good life in New Delhi and save more money than you would have in New York (to send back to your parents in the United States or pay down that pesky college loan).

I am graduating next year, and I hope the skills I have acquired in college and summer work experiences are desirable. Time will tell if I will be able to adapt in the work environment I find myself in. But just like you, I plan on remaining calm and doing what is right for me. After all, despite what you see in the news every day, the world is not coming to an end.


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