Video Response: Shift Happens
The presentation’s melodramatic music and wild prognostications are, at first, laughable. Many of the “facts” the video put forth made an impression on me, except when, by chance, I knew those facts to be gross oversimplifications. The rising power of China is an area I have studied, and on the subject of China I found the video to be misleading, seeming to demonstrate a Newsweek-level comprehension of a much more complicated issue. The vastness of China is beyond doubt, but the claims the video makes as to China’s ability to overtake the United States economically are more fear mongering than fact.
There have been a number of recent books that claim China, with its huge population and 10 percent annual economic growth, will overtake the U. S. in productivity in coming decades. These ideas are based on studies of the 60 million Chinese who live in wealthy urban centers like Shanghai. The remaining 94 percent of Chinese people live in households that earn less than $6 a day (Aziz). If China’s torrid 10 percent annual growth continues for the next 100 years, the average household income will only rise to $12 dollars a day.
This meager income cannot compare with the average income of a country like the United States, and China needs its growth rate just to keep the vast majority of citizens out of dire poverty. The point of challenging the video on its facts is this: unless more context is given in a presentation like this, it can quickly appear absurd when the viewer has knowledge of the claims being made. In my opinion, the video lost its credibility early on. This is not to say, however, that the presentation did not introduce some important ideas and that many of its claims are not true.
Facts on the number of jobs the average American worker will have before middle-age were startling. There is a great deal of turnover in the American workforce, and this has affected the daily life of every American. Society is transformed by the economic dislocation that high turnover causes. I see this dislocation in my own life. None of my neighbors know each other, and I do not know them. This is because none of us expect to be staying in the building long. Most of us are students or work in the corporate world and expect to be somewhere else in a few years time.
A sense of community is lacking, making the neighborhood less safe and less friendly. Expectations are different in the workplace as well. With so much turnover and so many qualified applicants for any position that opens up, everyone is more expendable. And industries themselves are changing. A friend of mine who works at a publishing house is not expecting to have a job by the end of next year because the cloth-and-paper books her company sells are no longer in demand. The question arises as to how managers should handle the volatility of the present-day business world. The “Did You Know?
” presentation does do an adequate job of showing the strain global capitalism puts on the workforce. Many offices have become contentious, tension-filled places because workers do not feel secure and management is forced to demand increased productivity from fewer employees in an effort to avoid being downsized or shipped overseas. But managers cannot change our system of global capitalism. So what can they do? A greater sense of community can surely be fostered in the workplace even if employees suffer, as my neighbors and I do, from the effects of economic dislocation.
Team-building exercises and spaces for interaction within the office might help workers feel they are not so expendable. While managers cannot remove the threat of cheap overseas labor, they can be forthright with employees and truthfully lay out what the future of their organization looks like. Part of what troubles my friend in the publishing industry is that she does not know when the end is going to come. To a large extent, management has hidden the losses the publishing house has suffered and given employees a unrealistic projection of a turnaround.
The dire picture the video paints does not leave the viewer with much of sense of how our current way of doing things ought to change. A focus on innovation and training workers in the latest technology seems to be one remedy. The woeful state of broadband penetration in the United States is an area that could benefit from a focus on innovation. The video’s larger message is that Americans will have to embrace the technology in their lives, to accept a future in which jobs are unstable and information is ubiquitous.
Perhaps it is best for American workers to start thinking of themselves as freelancers who use technology to move from one prospect to another.
Aziz, Jahangir and Li Cui. Explaining China’s Low Consumption: The Neglected Role of Household Income. International Monetary Fund Working Papers. 2007. “Did You Know? : Shift Happens – Globalization; Information Age. ” YouTube. 8 February 2008. http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=ljbI-363A2Q (accessed 5 May 2010).Sample Essay of Custom-Writing