Thursday, February 22, 2018

Desemprego tecnológico, mito ou realidade?

Technological Unemployment: Much More Than You Wanted to Know, por Scott Alexander.

Um artigo sobre se há (ou pode haver) mesmo muito desemprego por causa da tecnologia.

Ainda que um pouco paralela ao tema central, gostei especialmente desta parte:

Prime age non-working men are mostly on disability. But some are also in school (despite having to be above 25 to be included as “prime age”), retired (despite having to be below 55), or homemakers (remember, these are all men). Again, only about 1% (out of the total of 12%) say they can’t find work.

If we were very optimistic, we could paint a rosy picture of what’s going on here. The increase in disability represents improving social safety net that allows disabled people to be better supported. It’s great that more people are financially secure enough to retire early. It’s great that more people are pursuing a graduate education that has them in school after age 25. It’s great that gender stereotypes are decreasing and more men feel comfortable as homemakers, perhaps supported by a working spouse. (...)

In 1970, educated and uneducated men were about equally likely to be PAMLFNPers. The rate for educated men didn’t change. The rate for uneducated men shot up.

And I won’t show you graphs, but there are similar trends for poor people, ex-convicts, blue collar workers, and minorities. These are not the sort of people who are likely to be able to retire early, pursue graduate school, or defy gender norms. But they are the sort of people who might have trouble finding work. This is pretty suspicious. (...)

Labor force nonparticipation is increasing primarily in poor and lower-middle-class people without a lot of good options, just as their remaining options get much worse. Surely this suggests something worse is going on.

The easiest place for this to happen is disability. It doesn’t require disability fraud, per se. It just requires some people on the threshold of disability who are motivated by marginal cost/benefit analysis.

Suppose that you have bad back pain. You work in the auto factory, like your father and his father before him. Your back pain flares up pretty often, but you know your foreman pretty well and he gives you an easy shift until it passes, and the union makes sure that nobody gives you any grief about it. You like your company and your coworkers and you want to make them happy. Also, if you didn’t work, you would starve to death.

Now suppose that your factory closes, and the only job available is being a home health aide. This involves a lot of bending over and puts you in constant almost-unbearable pain. And it’s run by a giant faceless corporation which always seems to be trying to screw you over. Also, you live in West Virginia and are very manly, and changing diapers in nursing homes seems like undignified women’s work. Also, the pay is half what you’re used to. Also, the government just passed a new law making disability benefits much more generous and easier to get. So… (...)

Let’s say you’re our West Virginia factory worker again, only now you can’t get on disability. Now what?

Maybe you choose to retire. And maybe you’re 53 years old and this isn’t the most reasonable financial plan, but you own your house, you get food stamps, and you can do odd jobs around your friends’ farm to make some extra money.

Or maybe you choose to go to that ridiculous Coal Miner To Coder school that got profiled on NPR a little while ago, in the hopes that you can have a pathway to a new career, or just so that you have something to do.

Or maybe you choose to stay at home with your kids, while your wife does the home health aide thing, and if anybody asks, you’re a “stay-at-home dad”.

And then when economists look at the statistics, they say “Oh, look, there’s no problem here, it’s just a combination of retirees, students, homemakers, and the disabled.”

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