Cracks in the labor market
Whether it’s through worker protections or policies that encourage more entrepreneurship, labor policies set the structure for labor markets. Ideally, these policies both protect and expand the potential of our country’s most valuable resource: people.
Yet, if you look closely at the labor market, you start to see cracks.
Our country faces worker shortages in healthcare, education, and construction, which will only worsen over time. And we've made it difficult for workers to retrain for next-generation careers in renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, and AI.
The US has huge gaps in its worker safety net, with gig workers, domestic workers, and other vulnerable groups falling through. They are one catastrophe away from a lifetime in debt, poverty, or worse.
And finally, people are struggling to have more of a voice in their working conditions. People want remote work policies, freedom from the tyranny of 24/7 Slack messages, and a bare minimum level of support for working mothers and fathers.
Starbucks used to tell the press stories about how corporate meetings would always include an empty chair at the table that symbolized Baristas. Workers don’t want empty chairs anymore.
Where Workonomics fits in
This is the backdrop for Workonomics, which I started in 2022 to engage with these issues involving workers, technology, and policy.
Several trends make me especially excited about this topic at this point in time:
The empirical economics revolution, which provides us with new analytical tools to measure the benefits of labor policies
The evolution of antitrust enforcement, which is starting to focus more on competition in labor markets
New technologies affecting workers, like generative AI, gig economy platforms, and worker surveillance tech
A renewed interest in US policymaking to learn from systems in other countries, like sectoral bargaining in Nordic countries and apprenticeship programs in Germany
My hope with Workonomics is to build a data-driven, non-ideological, and inquisitive community that aspires to build a more dynamic and equitable economy for workers.
Similarly to the communities of concerned citizens pushing for better public transit and urban development policies, I think Workonomics can be a place to share new ideas and push for a better future.
Thanks for giving Workonomics a read!