Social Question

rojo's avatar

If society reaches a point where there are too many people and no way to provide jobs for all who want them how will it cope?

Asked by rojo (24159points) September 4th, 2015

Will we insist people retire earlier? How will they live?
Will we shorten the work week to provide more positions? If so, will we need to raise the hourly wage to adjust for the fewer hours?
Will we say screw all, grab what you can and to hell with those who can’t get a job?
Will business take advantage of the overabundant workforce and use it to lower the hourly wage because there is always someone out there to do the job?
How will we adjust for the non-working hours? More recreational activities? How will they be paid for?

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42 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Does the same conditions exists in some of the third world countries? Humans find some way to adopt to the conditions. I don’t think early retirement will work. Who’s going to fund the costs of the retirees? I don’t have any great answers.

kritiper's avatar

It won’t be able to cope. The rich will be served and the poor will do without. Watch the movie “Soylent Green.”

rojo's avatar

What will happen to the so-called Work Ethic?
Will people who insist upon working 60 hours per week become social pariahs for not sharing?
Will this be what eventually bring civilization to a grinding halt?
Will it be a grinding halt or a screeching halt?

Cruiser's avatar

Movies Soylent Green and Time Machine both have solutions to this dilemma

elbanditoroso's avatar

Civil war, more like the French Revolution. The nobility will be beheaded.

stanleybmanly's avatar

This is an excellent and urgent question, and ALREADY pertinent. Conditions have already arrived necessitating a new definition and reordering of what it means to “earn a living”. The great dilemma rendering the problem all but unsolvable is the fact that those few benefitting most from the current system of distributing wealth are of course in control of the governments capable of the reordering, and thus unlikely to yield to the need barring the actual threat (and probably in spite of the assured fact) of their destruction. And if history has proven anything at all it is that at the head of any column resisting the necessity for change, GREED will ALWAYS be in front..

Coloma's avatar

This is already happening in the middle aged and over 50 populace. I was tanked by this economy a few years ago and will never recover, never. Too young for retirement,no funds left anyway, too old to find decent sustainable work after being self employed forever. No money to finance any new potential ventures and I sure as hell am not going to work at Walmart or some other shitty min. wage job at this stage of the game.

I know the website ” over 50 and out of work” have many long term unemployed people in my age bracket seeking some sort of legislation to lower the retirement age to 55 and find other ways of supporting the massive amount of boomers that have gone bust. There are no easy answers, infact, I have none at all, but we are already experiencing this especially in the older working age population. There are people and long term professionals out there that have been unemployed or under employed for years now. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my little Titanic would hit an iceberg of these proportions that has left me treading water without a lifeboat at a time when my ship should be coming in not going out on a tide of doom and gloom.

jca's avatar

It’s a scary future.

As a government worker, I know many are jealous of our pensions but having more people with money to spend on goods and services is good for the economy, not bad.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Maybe by educating people that BIRTH CONTROL is a GOOD thing,and not evil like the right wing religious,and political extremists want the people to think.

Coloma's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 Amen! For lack of a better word. haha

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I’m not sure this scenario is possible. If the population increases, those extra people are going to need the same goods and services as everyone else, which will require new jobs to provide. We would have the same proportion of workers in each field as we do today, just scaled up.

But say efficiency improvements across several large industries make many people redundant. Then we would have a large number of unemployed, but we would also have more wealthy managers, because efficiency increases lead to profitability increases. So inequality would increase. However the owner/manager class would spend more on luxury goods, requiring jobs in manufacturing of these items. And as history shows us, large unemployment rates often leads to innovation, so jobs would also be created to put innovative ideas into action.

There is also a trend in capitalist countries towards part time work, rather than full time. So even if there is less total work required to be done, chances are the same number of people will do the work in less time.

SmashTheState's avatar

We passed that point more than a century ago. Piotr Kropotkin observed in the early 20th century that fewer than one in four people was engaged in productive employment, with the rest shuffling paper or “supervising” or any of the other parasitical middleman positions occupied by the bourgeois middle class. I would guess that the number is probably closer to one in a hundred these days. With concerted effort it would probably be possible to eliminate the need for “work” as it is commonly conceived altogether.

The psychologist Erich Fromm wrote an interest essay about what he called “dynamism,” in which he claimed that Marxism and Freudian psychanalytic theory are actually the same model looked at from different ends of the telescope. By “dynamism” he meant that humans are primarily motivated by the need to be useful, and that we have constructed an entire culture for the sole purpose and function of making as many people as possible feel useful in the creation of a culture for the sole purpose and function of making as many people as possible feel useful. In other words, everything we see around us, all of the suffering and struggling and warfare and the destruction of our ecosphere is nothing more than a puppy endlessly chasing its own tail.

I happen to believe something a little different; the small cadre of sociopathic billionaires who own this planet have set up a system designed to keep humanity so tired, occupied, and busy that they never have the time or inclination to rebel or to look up from their day to say struggles. The existence of poverty and need is nothing more than the deliberate creation of a sadistically tortured underclass to act as a warning for anyone who dares to lift the yoke from their shoulders.

BlackSwanEffect's avatar

@SmashTheState Capitalism thrives on efficiency. Large companies slash jobs all the time for the sake of improving efficiency. That is, turning the maximum profit per unit work performed. Capitalist countries simply cannot afford to have useless jobs. So if there are useless jobs in our economy, I would argue that they are not created by billionaires or businessmen, but rather governments that require huge amounts of regulation and documentation.

Cruiser's avatar

@BlackSwanEffect Good answer and I would add that government workers who do a lousy job at their job and there is nothing that can be done as most are protected by government unions. I feel like I entered the set of the Walking Dead every time I have to get my drivers license renewed.

Coloma's avatar

^ Ugh…don’t remind me, my renewal is coming up in Dec.

BlackSwanEffect's avatar

@Cruiser Agreed. There’s nothing like a protected government job to kill productivity.

cazzie's avatar

Is that why your cops are so bad in the US?

stanleybmanly's avatar

@BlackSwanEffect Efficiency sounds nice, but the one thing on which capitalism really thrives is slippery definitions. For example, what can be more “efficient” than slavery. Capitalism might thrive on efficiency, but at bottom it is at heart defined by that other E word… Exploitation. In any discussion involving capitalism, those on the wage end of the see-saw must ALWAYS be cognizant of this reality.

stanleybmanly's avatar

And while we’re at it, exactly who do you suppose it is that most eagerly encourages, or rather foments that image of the useless do-nothing civil servant, shielded by corrupt and “obsolete” unions? As those in the private sector watch as their pensions and benefits are stripped away, and their stagnant wages pave the road toward destitution, much better to focus that resentment on the last refuge in the society for a middle class standard of living. It would be nice to suppose that other working class people are behind the ever more arduous struggle to get by.

BlackSwanEffect's avatar

@stanleybmanly My response was not to champion capitalism. I was pointing out the absurd notion that large business owners create useless jobs.

Regulation is a necessary part of a capitalist society, if it is to be a democracy rather than an oligarchy. But the interests of regulation need to be balanced against those of efficiency, and Western governments are tending ever more towards over-regulation.

jca's avatar

Good point, @stanleybmanly. Instead of other workers being resentful of the benefits that public workers get, they should strive to obtain those benefits in the industries they work in. Pensions, work hours, holiday pay, sick time, bereavement leave – beneficial for all types of workers, not just government workers.

BlackSwanEffect's avatar

@stanleybmanly and @jca I should also point out that my response was not aimed at the benefits received by government employees, but the nature of their work. I work in a government department, and it often feels like there are more managers than workers. Every remotely important decision requires the rubber stamp of five levels of bureaucrats. There is simply no way that, if a serious review was ever conducted, each of these people could justify their jobs.

jca's avatar

@BlackSwanEffect: I wasn’t directing my comment at you. It’s a general statement that we, as government workers and union activists, hear all the time from the public when we’re portrayed as greedy. I know you were not saying that we’re greedy or anything. I actually was not following this thread terribly closely.

Definitely, top heavy management is common place in government. Sadly, when it comes to layoffs, the little guy who was last in the door is the one laid off, and he’s usually the one doing the most work, piles and piles of work, working through lunch, trying to get the job done under the threat of discipline. Management takes care of each other, and they just move around to different positions at different locations.

BlackSwanEffect's avatar

@jca Then we’re in agreement.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Maybe at some point society will need to implement the a one-child policy with strict financial penalties or abortions provided if they go over a certain limit.

jca's avatar

One child policy is a great idea, but I am wondering if (at least in the US), people would sue the government and say it violates their religious freedoms because their religion prohibits birth control or their religion states they must have many babies (I’m thinking Hasids, Catholics and not sure about Muslims but I know they often have large families).

stanleybmanly's avatar

@LuckyGuy Those penalties are already here. To my mind, nothing can quite compare these days to the extraordinary expenses involved with rearing a child. I’m frankly astonished that sensible people still choose to tackle the obligation.

jca's avatar

@stanleybmanly: There are those who are in the offices of Social Services with many children (I see a lot of Hasidics). They can’t work, supposedly, (we all know many work for cash in the Diamond District and other things like that); their religion tells them to study the Torah. Meanwhile, who’s paying for that? (answer: you and me).

Section 8 builds them units larger than 3 bedrooms (where can you typically find any apartment larger than 3 bedrooms? Nowhere). Trust me, I know.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@jca that’s a fascinating topic for a variety of reasons. To begin with, it’s strange that blacks are stereotyped as notoriously welfare dependent, but no ethnicity in this country can compare with the Hasidim when it comes to “working” the social services system. And before the bigotry charges begin flying, let me state that I am not disparaging the sects for their expertise. My point is that the Hasidic communities have built a society heavily dependent on social services and those services are factored into everything from teachers’ salaries at yeshivas to huge section 8 doles for their traditionally large families. When you think about it, it’s rather an amazing feat in this day and age that any group can deliberately isolate itself so thoroughly from mainstream society yet maximize to an extraordinary extent every possible benefit that society has available!

BlackSwanEffect's avatar

@LuckyGuy Actually many Western nations have a birth rate less than the death rate. Population growth in these countries is through migration. Considering many developing countries are becoming dramatically more affluent, I wouldn’t be surprised if the world population stabilised in time. But I believe we are destined to colonise other worlds, though the technology is quite a way off.

Coloma's avatar

The one child policy in China is backfiring too as there is a gross shortage of females for the male segment of the populace to couple up with, even if they choose to not have children or only one, the young men have slim pickins’.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I predict welfare, public assistance, hand up, etc…. will eventually have to stop subsidizing families that have additional children while relying upon assistance for more than 50% of their expenses. There might be a limit of two children per female for example. After that the only benefits you are entitled to are birth control and 1 free abortion. Any more is paid 100% by the baby daddy or jail time is served.
Gee, do yo think that would fly politically? :-)

jca's avatar

@LuckyGuy: I like that idea.

Coloma's avatar

The thing is too, that there are all sorts of freebies for single mothers and families with kids, but virtually no benefits other than food stamps and medi-cal for senior citizens and that is only if you earn less than $1,250 a month in CA. How does anyone live on $1,250 a month? There is WIC for infants and children, free daycare, job training, cash benefits, on and on but poverty stricken seniors are SOL for the most part. In my county the largest segment of impoverished people are widowed and divorced women over age 60. Things I have researched after the economy wiped me out a few years ago.

I agree with @LuckyGuy and it’s a shame that these families can keep reaping major benefits while they continue to irresponsibly crank out more children when there are seniors that have worked hard for decades and cannot even afford medications and decent food to eat.

rojo's avatar

I don’t think you/we are going to be able to keep maintaining an ever increasing welfare state with the burden on the back of workers who are working fewer hours for less money. And how are we/you going to keep the workers occupied when they are not at work? There will me more hours in the day and more days in the week that they are not at work. How are we as a society going to keep them/us occupied and satisfied? On a reduced income they are not going to be able to travel or vacation or go to movies or circuses.

jca's avatar

@rojo: We always say that’s why pensions are a good thing. When more people have more income to spend (from their pensions), it’s good for the economy. People traveling, going to movies, going out to restaurants, buying big ticket items like appliances and cars. Not that the majority of pensions are huge- the police and firemen may get big ones but the typical government worker gets not much more than one or two thousand a month.

SmashTheState's avatar

The problem is not overpopulation. More than half of all the animal biomass on Earth is in the form of ants, and our ecosphere has no trouble supporting them. The problem is our lifestyle and the distribution of resources.

We have had the technology to construct zero-impact, carbon-neutral arcologies for at least 60 years. The Earth could easily support ten or a hundred times the number of human beings on it today if we’d move into arcologies and modify our lifestyles to elimate unsustainable practices like using cows for meat or driving cars.

And I’m sorry to say it, but a large number of human being are going to have to die. Not because there’s too many humans, but because humans which cannot be convinced that capitalism is destroying this planet, that the very concept of capital is toxic, and will not modify their unsustainable lifestyles, must be stopped one way or another. I would be content to see them exiled somewhere, but there’s currently nowhere we can put burger-gobbling capitalist sociopaths in SUVs where they won’t continue to turn the Earth into Venus.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Coloma. Though I’m certainly a senior now, I think between Medicaid & social security benefits, the vast majority of us are much better shielded from the economic ravages confronting those who haven’t hit 65. And while Nothing irritates me more than people producing children they can’t possibly afford, I force myself to remember that there is a high price we will ALL pay for children allowed to grow up deprived of a decent standard of living. We must not fall into the trap of allowing ourselves duped into a situation of the old battling the young for scraps. Clearly, if there is any one segment of the population blameless for our dilemma it’s the nation’s kids. No the reasons for our social safety net fraying, and so many of us of all ages struggling is simply a matter of viewing where the rewards for all that struggling ultimately wind up. And once again the question arises. What excuse is there for endemic poverty In a nation with the wealth and resources of the United States?

Coloma's avatar

@stanleybmanly I agree and do not blame anyone, I have a 28 year daughter who has finally lander her first really good job and I am thrilled for her. The problem though is huge for many of us younger baby boomers that were hit hard in this recession and have no hope of recouping our losses. It is very difficult to reconcile years of contributions only to find your nest completely defeathered and littered with cracked eggshells. This is the issue many of us 50 something people are facing, too old to get hired and too young to retire. I did my part, an only child of only children and have an only child.

Admittedly I do find it aggravating that those that can least afford to raise a child and illegal immigrants are the ones reproducing the most and taking the lions share of assistance from others that have paid into the system forever and a day.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes but no good can come from a future of neglected and underprivileged kids, which is our apparent destiny.

Coloma's avatar

@stanleybmanly Agreed, it’s a double edged sword and both sides are razor sharp, not only are we going to see an all time high in the history of humanity of a senior population by 2050, without adequate resources for the majority, and… we are going to be reaping the consequences of all the underprivileged children being born right now, today.

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