U.S. Engineering in a Global Economy

University of Chicago Press
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Since the late 1950s, the engineering job market in the United States has been fraught with fears of a shortage of engineering skill and talent. U.S. Engineering in a Global Economy brings clarity to issues of supply and demand in this important market. Following a general overview of engineering-labor market trends, the volume examines the educational pathways of undergraduate engineers and their entry into the labor market, the impact of engineers working in firms on productivity and innovation, and different dimensions of the changing engineering labor market, from licensing to changes in demand and guest worker programs.

The volume provides insights on engineering education, practice, and careers that can inform educational institutions, funding agencies, and policy makers about the challenges facing the United States in developing its engineering workforce in the global economy.
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About the author

Richard B. Freeman is the Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics at Harvard University and is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Hal Salzman is professor of planning and public policy at the Edward J. Bloustein School and senior faculty fellow at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 20, 2018
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780226468471
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / Microeconomics
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / International / Economics
Education / Higher
Technology & Engineering / Engineering (General)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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For much of the 20th century, American workers were the world's leaders in productivity, wages, and positive workplace conditions. American unions championed free enterprise and high labor standards, and American businesses dominated the world market. But, as editor Richard B. Freeman cautions in Working Under Different Rules, despite our relatively high standard of living we have fallen behind our major trading partners and competitors in providing good jobs at good pay—what was once considered "the American dream." Working Under Different Rules assesses the decline in the well-being of American workers—evidenced by spiraling income inequality and stagnant real earnings—and compares our employment and labor conditions with those of Western Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia. As these original essays demonstrate, the modern U.S. labor market is characterized by a high degree of flexibility, with rapid employee turnover, ongoing creation of new jobs, and decentralized wage setting practices. But closer inspection reveals a troubling flip side to this adaptability in the form of inadequate job training, more frequent layoffs, and increased numbers of workers pushed to the very bottom of the income scale, into the low wage occupations where much of the recent job growth has occurred. While the variety of works councils prevalent throughout the developed world have done much to foster democratic rights and economic protection for employees, the virtually union-free environment emerging in many areas of the private U.S. economy has stripped workers of a strong collective voice. German apprenticeship programs and the Japanese system of "job rotation" represent more effective approaches to preparing workers for the changing demands of lifetime employment. In addition, workers in European advanced economies and in Canada have greater social protection than Americans. But while this has some cost in unemployment and higher taxes, carefully designed social safety nets do not seriously jeopardize economic efficiency. Working Under Different Rules is an illuminating analysis of the often complex interaction of market institutions, social policy, and economic results. The authors' up-to-date international assessment of unions, wage setting, apprenticeship programs, welfare support, and works councils suggests alternate ways of training, paying, and empowering workers that, if effectively adapted, could facilitate the growth of a healthier American economy and better prospects for American workers.
“Ideas of economic democracy are very much in the air, as they should be, with increasing urgency in the midst of today’s serious crises. Richard Wolff’s constructive and innovative ideas suggest new and promising foundations for much more authentic democracy and sustainable and equitable development, ideas that can be implemented directly and carried forward. A very valuable contribution in troubled times.”—Noam Chomsky

"Probably America's most prominent Marxist economist."—The New York Times

Capitalism as a system has spawned deepening economic crisis alongside its bought-and-paid-for political establishment. Neither serves the needs of our society. Whether it is secure, well-paid, and meaningful jobs or a sustainable relationship with the natural environment that we depend on, our society is not delivering the results people need and deserve.

One key cause for this intolerable state of affairs is the lack of genuine democracy in our economy as well as in our politics. The solution requires the institution of genuine economic democracy, starting with workers managing their own workplaces, as the basis for a genuine political democracy.

Here Richard D. Wolff lays out a hopeful and concrete vision of how to make that possible, addressing the many people who have concluded economic inequality and politics as usual can no longer be tolerated and are looking for a concrete program of action.

Richard D. Wolff is professor of Economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is currently a visiting professor at the New School University in New York. Wolff is the author of many books, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. He hosts the weekly hour-long radio program Economic Update on WBAI (Pacifica Radio) and writes regularly for The Guardian, Truthout.org, and the MRZine.


The U.S. labor market is the most laissez faire of any developed nation, with a weak social safety net and little government regulation compared to Europe or Japan. Some economists point to this hands-off approach as the source of America's low unemployment and high per-capita income. But the stagnant living standards and rising economic insecurity many Americans now face take some of the luster off the U.S. model. In America Works, noted economist Richard Freeman reveals how U.S. policies have created a labor market remarkable both for its dynamism and its disparities. America Works takes readers on a grand tour of America's exceptional labor market, comparing the economic institutions and performance of the United States to the economies of Europe and other wealthy countries. The U.S. economy has an impressive track record when it comes to job creation and productivity growth, but it isn't so good at reducing poverty or raising the wages of the average worker. Despite huge gains in productivity, most Americans are hardly better off than they were a generation ago. The median wage is actually lower now than in the early 1970s, and the poverty rate in 2005 was higher than in 1969. So why have the benefits of productivity growth been distributed so unevenly? One reason is that unions have been steadily declining in membership. In Europe, labor laws extend collective bargaining settlements to non-unionized firms. Because wage agreements in America only apply to firms where workers are unionized, American managers have discouraged unionization drives more aggressively. In addition, globalization and immigration have placed growing competitive pressure on American workers. And boards of directors appointed by CEOs have raised executive pay to astronomical levels. Freeman addresses these problems with a variety of proposals designed to maintain the vigor of the U.S. economy while spreading more of its benefits to working Americans. To maintain America's global competitive edge, Freeman calls for increased R&D spending and financial incentives for students pursuing graduate studies in science and engineering. To improve corporate governance, he advocates licensing individuals who serve on corporate boards. Freeman also makes the case for fostering worker associations outside of the confines of traditional unions and for establishing a federal agency to promote profit-sharing and employee ownership. Assessing the performance of the U.S. job market in light of other developed countries' recent history highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the free market model. Written with authoritative knowledge and incisive wit, America Works provides a compelling plan for how we can make markets work better for all Americans. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation's Centennial Series
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