Will The U.S. Economy Survive Hybrid Work?

Will The U.S. Economy Survive Hybrid Work?

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00:03
today i'm speaking with former labor secretary and uc berkeley professor robert reich hi professor thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me hi lindsay good to see you again yeah you too um so specifically which job categories do you think will have the most flexibility and which will have the least going forward well going forward we know uh it's not going to be hugely different retail restaurant hotel hospital hospital you know the the hospitality industry all of those that have been battered down by the pandemic they're
00:34
they're all going to come back uh they don't require huge amounts of education most of those jobs uh they don't pay very much low productivity jobs and hospital jobs and healthcare jobs are going to be going up particularly high because let's face it you've got baby boomers like me who are going to need more and more care and more and more help over the next 10 or 20 years so the contours of those job categories are not going to change very much but
01:04
how people do those jobs will change the other jobs the higher paying jobs in high tech in finance in parts of the economy that are most more innovative and very often require some sort of advanced education those are going to continue to generate more and more income and more and more wealth i do hope lindsay that finance is not going to absorb as much of our talents in this country as it has over the last 20 or 30 years
01:37
but it may because uh the big banks are just about to come out with their big big bonuses uh yes so you talk about um the talent being gobbled up by just the finance industry or you know specific industries what can we do to address the talent shortage or the late the alleged labor shortage that companies are seeing uh today well it's a little bit of an alleged labor shortage and you're right i don't think it's a labor shortage so much as a shortage of uh
02:08
the things that workers need like good pay and child care and health insurance and uh and family leave i mean those are the things that are in short supply and a lot of workers are saying to themselves look i'm working too hard i'm working uh to the bone i'm working 40 50 60 70 hours a week i'm not getting ahead and i've had it basically i either quit and i'm looking for another job or you know my employer if my employer is not going to give me more respect and more
02:40
security and and the kind of uh well the kind of the kind of treatment that i think i deserve well that employer can shove it and and that you know a lot of workers really are beginning to say that you you look at the quit rate that's the percentage of people who are actually voluntarily leaving their jobs you look at the labor participation rate the total you know the people of working age who are in the labor force uh look at the number of strikes now uh all of those indicate that
03:14
something very profound is happening in terms of people saying i'm not going to take it anymore i'm glad you brought this up because i was thinking specifically about you when the great resignation came out do you think that the great resignation is a sort of modern day workers strike i do i think it's a kind of general strike now the big question of course is it going to continue will people continue to make these kinds of demands right now workers have a lot of bargaining power because there's a lot of pent up demand for all kinds of
03:44
goods and services coming out of the uh pandemic and assuming we don't go too far back into the pandemic there will continue to be a lot of demand uh people have not spent as much as they were spending before the pandemic but you see that puts employers in a hot spot employers need to hire a lot of workers to respond to all of that demand and workers now are sitting pretty in the sense that they don't have to take the same jobs and the same pay and the same
04:16
working conditions they had before great so that brings me right back so is the nine to five over or five days a week is that over uh i think that a lot of workers having worked either remotely or seen other workers work remotely are saying themselves well if it's possible to work remotely i'm going to do it i'm going to make if i if my employer now doesn't allow me to work remotely i'm going to look for an employer who will allow me to work remotely i want more flexible hours because i have kids or i have other
04:47
things i want to do with my life i don't want to i don't want mandatory overtime i'm sorry i just don't want it if my employer is demanding mandatory overtime uh well the hell with that employer i'm going uh someplace else um and uh uh it's a remarkable groundswell uh lindsay i i also see my young students and all their friends the gen z's they feel even more this way they say they look at their older
05:18
brothers and sisters or sometimes their parents and they say i'm not going to live like that i'm not going to give up my life for my work i i don't you know live to work i work in order to live and that's a different set of values sure but can our economy support that will the u.s economy fundamentally change if the majority of workers are remote well let's put it this way most companies want workers and most companies want reliable workers most companies want talented workers in
05:49
other words companies really know if they don't know they're going to find out very shortly that they have got to do whatever they can to get the workers they need now it is true if you're an hourly worker if you are not paid very much right now if you are kind of a in one of the low productivity sectors of the economy you don't have huge bargaining leverage when the economy returns to the way it was before but if enough workers even low wage
06:18
workers basically have the attitude i am not going to work as hard as i worked before and i'm certainly not going to spend an hour or two hours commuting to work uh i want something different for my life then employers are just going to have no choice they're going to have to adjust and that's a lot of adjustment you know it kind of came out of nowhere so will that hurt the us economy i mean we've been talked about this for years that china is going to become a lot maybe you already think that china is a
06:51
bigger economy than the us um it certainly has a huge consumer power so will all these changes uh in work workplace relations lead to a decline in the u.s economy i don't think so number one if workers are more satisfied if they are working from home if they have more flexibility if they're not suffering in ways that they feel they're demeaning if they're not doing mandatory overtime actually they'll be more productive a lot of studies show that the more satisfied
07:22
workers are the more they produce and the better they produce and the more innovative they are so i think an argument can be made that the economy is going to do better overall but even more fundamentally you have to ask yourself what's more important uh our workforce and our people in terms of their morale and their ability to have good lives or something called the gdp the the you know the gross domestic product the economy as a whole well we don't work for the economy the economy is supposed to work for us uh so i think that we are
07:53
possibly on the verge of a slightly uh a change in the questions we ask instead of asking is this good for the economy uh we ought to be asking is this good for people who are working people um we had a series about like who's the happiest country in the world and this really makes me think about that finland and denmark are the happiest countries in the world the us doesn't even come close on the list um so do you think that we could be a happier country if we stop focusing on gdp and competing with china i think we probably
08:26
could be if we paid more attention to our workforces i mean it's interesting finland and denmark for example they have very strong social safety nets uh they make it easy for people to get the health care they need the child care they need people don't have the anxieties that a lot of americans have i mean we are all capitalist nations you know there's there's every even china practices a form of capitalism but there is soft capitalism and very brutal capitalism and the united states uh
08:57
really among all of the advanced nations has the most brutal form of capitalism particularly if you are an hourly wage earner but you know even if you're on a salary it's pretty brutal switching gears a little bit um so what has the latest omnicron surge or omicron surge um taught us um about the u.s economy uh well it's taught us a bunch of stuff i mean simmering underneath the surface were a lot of problems already i mean problems of discrimination racial discrimination inequality widening
09:29
inequality we've talked about this a little bit uh problems of workers who were not respected and disrespected but what the uh what the surge has done in fact the pandemic did generally but this last surge particularly is showing is making all of these uh worse and raw and more visible and i think a lot of people are getting to the end of their patients uh now what does that mean uh you know p i i i've never seen people so sour uh as as i've
10:02
seen over the last really the last month that's understandable lindsay because obviously people have been through two years of this and a lot of people are saying well when is this going to end but i think that out of a kind of sourness and and frustration and anger could come some good things uh we've been talking about people reconsidering their jobs reconsidering their lives uh asking themselves some very basic questions i don't think that's bad i i think that it would be bad if somebody worked their
10:34
tail off for 40 years never asked themselves anything about their lives and then woke up one day when they were just about to retire and said wait a minute i've lost my entire life yeah i hear that so we've had a lot of women fall out of the workforce maybe they're asking those kind of questions or maybe just child care is just too expensive and it's just too difficult in the pandemic um what should the government be doing to help alleviate some of the expenses of child care and what can we do to keep women in the workforce well child care is a huge issue
11:06
and unfortunately it doesn't look like it's going to get through the senate that that bill that had child care in it but i don't think it's going to die because every politician who wants to be elected or reelected needs to listen to their constituents this is not a republican or a democratic problem it's not a partisan issue i think also the same goes for universal pre-k we're going to see also more demands for to to decouple
11:37
health insurance from work and pensions from work because people want more flexibility they want more autonomy they want to start their own businesses and those pressures are going to mount on politicians and finally paid leave this is not going away i mean paid leave is a huge issue not just a woman's issue it's a huge issue for men as well uh and uh you know i was part of an administration years ago that came up with unpaid leave 12 weeks of unpaid
12:09
leave the family medical leave act everybody at the time thought wow fabulous 12 weeks of unpaid leave well it's not so fabulous most other countries provide many more weeks of paid leave and it seems to me that a lot of americans are going to need that and are going to make i hope they make the demands of their politicians yeah um you talked about health care as well uh we're looking into right now um can obamacare as we're calling it or the affordable care act can that handle the great resignation all these people leaving their jobs and maybe they don't
12:40
have another job lined up how are those people going to be insured well a lot of people do have cobra from their companies that is it tides them over for a time uh but you're pointing out something that is very very important that is that individual health insurance plans are extraordinarily expensive you need to be in a group in order to have really the benefits of a group insurance that is some people in a group are going to be very expensive some
13:10
people are going to be very cheap and the ones that are cheaper are going to be subsidizing the more expensive but if you're not in a group you're going to have very high co-payments and deductibles and high insurance costs that has got to be addressed and i think it again politicians want to be elected and re-elected so they're going to listen i hope what's the biggest threat to the u.s dollar uh the biggest threat to the united states dollar is not inflation because inflation really really i think is temporary and most of the global
13:42
investors understand that the biggest threat to the united states dollar is instability global instability uh and instability is a threat to really everything uh now some economists and some political scientists uh they look at history over the last 30 or 40 years and they say well periods and global of global instability actually there's a lot of flight to safety and one of the safest currencies you can possibly put your money in around the globe is the dollar so it may be that
14:13
global instability is actually good for the dollar okay so taking that a step further um if instability is um could be good for the dollar but it's bad for economies like globally and we're in as flexible uncertain time for remote work and what back to the work is going to look back to the office going to look like so could um maintaining a remote work economy be bad for stability no i think it's like a shock absorber
14:44
actually i think that a remote economy uh in which people have more flexibility gives employers and workers more opportunity to basically save for a rainy day for uh developing all sorts of personal and corporate means of maintaining a maximum flexibility in a time of uncertainty which industries do you expect to grow in the next 10 years well the biggest growth industries are
15:15
quite obviously going to be high tech the biggest question to my mind is how we're going to handle high tech if we break it up it may be good for the economy actually because right now there have been uh a really remarkable really over the last 20 years remarkable decline in the number of new high-tech startups because there are a lot of startups are intimidated by the biggest high-tech firms but at the same time you don't want to
15:46
kill the goose that's laying the golden egg and that's that's going to be a big big issue because there's bipartisan interest right now in breaking up big tech we're doing something that is quite substantial to big tech uh the the other industries that are kind of the mainstays of the american economy are obviously finance i said earlier i will say again i hope that finance shrinks as proportion of the national economy
16:17
in the 1950s and 1960s it was about 15 of the national economy by the 1980s it became 30 percent by the 1990s finance became 40 percent of the entire national economy it's not producing things it's the innovation that occurs in finance is innovation around financial instruments and speculation that is not productive as we understand productivity so i'm not a big fan of an enlarged financial sector entertainment is going to continue to
16:50
grow uh as a proportion of our national product and as a proportion of our exports of everything from music to film uh and that's to me great i i i think that's part of a creative economy many young people want to go into the creative arts and i say more power to you that's really interesting about the finance um being too big in the economy um when it doesn't produce anything especially at cnbc business news um so that's a lot of our focus right um i
17:22
think my question there is just what do you think then of cryptocurrency which sort of has come out of this complex um monetary policy that we have uh is that the next phase uh and does that actually help the economy grow no cryptocurrency is is is basically a ponzi scheme i mean you know it's like the it's the dutch tulip mania uh you you you're not creating anything you're not investing in anything and it takes up huge amounts of energy at a time when
17:53
the globe needs to worry about pollution and climate change to utilize so much energy to produce what nothing i mean just speculative instruments is absurd quite frankly so if there's one policy that the biden administration could get through the house and the senate and make you know law what would it be that would be most successful to helping the us economy well i i've got a lot of to narrow it down i think the child tax credit is
18:24
probably the most important because you know when the when we did have briefly uh last year under the american rescue plan the child tax credit uh it reduced child poverty by half i mean talk about an amazing i mean eye-popping results uh one of the great shames of america the richest country in the world is that one out of six of our children is in poverty uh if you can do something that reduces that poverty dramatically and quite suddenly keep it in place
18:54
don't let it don't don't remove the funding in order that you can what reduce the taxes of some billionaire that's absurd

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