In the Financial Times today, business leader Mortimer Zuckerman grimly summarizes the crisis in American jobs and wages.
Full-time workers used to comprise more than 70 per cent of the American retail workforce; now at least 70 per cent are part-time. The retail and wholesale sector has cut a million full-time jobs since 2006 while adding more than 500,000 part-time jobs. It is hard to believe that after the 20th-century labour struggles for the 40-hour work week, the 21st-century battle is a fight for enough working hours to make a living.
Like so many of us, though - I include myself - his appreciation of the severity of the problem bumps up against the meagerness of his program for doing anything about it.
What must be done to avoid a descent to a low-wage, part-time America? There are a whole raft of programmes:
invest in infrastructure and high-speed internet connections;multiply the government funds for training programmes and tie them to unemployment;
increase investment on education especially vocational training and post-secondary education;
strengthen science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in high schools and recruit and train teachers to broaden access to computer science in high school;
create an additional supplementary category of 20,000 annual visas for foreigners with the science and technology skills that are in short supply;
improve the attractiveness for foreign companies to locate here through a simplification of regulation.
If that's the "raft" we're going to leave a whole lot of people in the water.