It would be facile to attribute the current wave of populism to a single cause. But jobs — related to standard of living, quality of life — surely represent a tap root for much of the populism ferment.
New York Times economics columnist Eduardo Porter has described the chilling reality that undergirds populism in the U.S. — and by logical extension, in other countries as well:
“The appeal of Mr. Trump’s message underscores the hopelessness of many workers and the helplessness among policy experts struggling to find a fix for a labor market in which it has become increasingly tough to make a living. As manufacturing’s share of jobs dropped to 10 percent from 25 percent over the past four decades, millions have been relegated to a low-paid service economy with no benefits, uncertain hours and little job security.”
“While change is coming, it is grudging and slow.”
Job training — the right kind of job training — has worked in several test programs. It has worked when the training is for skills in demand by involved employers articulating their needs. A U.S. example:
MDRC, a New York City connected non-profit, has just completed a two year, four cities program stressing specific, identified employer needs. The multifaceted program, WorkAdvance, increased employees’ placement and earning power significantly. Similar programs in Wisconsin and Massachusetts have had parallel results. And the national 2014 Innovation and Workforce Opportunity Act, now taking root, also emphasizes such sectorial-centered training.
Of course, these programs still constitute a micro entry on the scale of job training needed throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. Too, important related factors also feed the populist/nationalist/xenophobic unrest. And political will for the needed expenditures must be developed. Admittedly, a herculean task. But large scale job training for the skills employers demand is an idea whose time has come.