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The War for Good Jobs

Gallup’s CEO predicts a global conflict on an economic battlefield

Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 16:14

As of 2008, the war for good jobs has trumped all other leadership activities because it’s been both the cause and the effect of everything else that countries have experienced. This will become even more real in the future as global competition intensifies. If countries fail at creating jobs, their societies will fall apart. Countries, and more specifically cities, will experience suffering, instability, chaos, and eventually revolution. This is the new world that leaders will confront.

If you were to ask me, from all the world polling Gallup has done for more than 75 years, what would fix the world—what would suddenly create worldwide peace, global well-being, and the next extraordinary advancements in human development—I would say the immediate appearance of 1.8 billion formal jobs. Nothing would change the current state of humankind more.

Leaders’ biggest problem is that an increasing number of people in the world are miserable, hopeless, suffering, and becoming dangerously unhappy because they don’t have an almighty good job—and in most cases, no hope of getting one.

A good job is a job with a paycheck from an employer and steady work that averages 30+ hours per week. Global labor economists refer to these as formal jobs. Sometimes leaders and economists blur the line between good jobs (formal jobs) and informal jobs. Informal jobs are jobs with no paycheck, no steady work. They’re found in, but not limited to, developing countries and include basic survival activities such as trading a chicken for coal. These jobs do create subsistence and survival, but not real economic energy. They are held by people who are not only miserable but, according to Gallup, also suffering their way through life with no hope for a formal job—no hope for a good job.

Of the 7 billion people on Earth, there are 5 billion adults aged 15 and older. Of these 5 billion, 3 billion tell Gallup they work or want to work. Most of these people need a full-time formal job. The problem is that there are currently only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs in the world. This is a potentially devastating global shortfall of about 1.8 billion good jobs. It means that global unemployment for those seeking a formal good job with a paycheck and 30+ hours of steady work approaches a staggering 50 percent, with another 10 percent wanting part-time work.

This also means that potential societal stress and instability lies within 1.8 billion people, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

It’s against this backdrop that the coming jobs war will be fought. And this new world war for good jobs will trump everything else. That’s because the lack of good jobs will become the root cause of almost all world problems that the United States and other countries will attempt to deal with through humanitarian aid, military force, and politics. The lack of good jobs will become the cause of hunger, extremism, out-of-control migration patterns, reckless environmental trends, widening trade imbalances, and on and on.

My big conclusion from reviewing Gallup’s polling on what the world is thinking on pretty much everything is that the next 30 years won’t be led by U.S. political or military force. Instead, the world will be led with economic force—a force that is primarily driven by job creation and quality gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

If there was a U.S. Department of Job Creation and it was successful, its results would overwhelm the success of the U.S. Department of State or the Department of Defense. Political and military forces would no longer determine world outcomes.

The demands of leadership have changed. The highest levels of leadership require mastery of a new task: job creation. Traditional leadership through politics, military force, religion, or personal values won’t work in the future like it has in the past. The nuances of personal values will be anchored in how they affect almighty jobs more than in Almighty God—or anything else. Human rights, stem cell research, gay rights, women in the global workplace—what will matter about these issues will be how they affect job growth more than how they affect family, political, and religious values.

Let me be as specific as possible in describing this new war. As of 2010, the world has a total GDP—or the sum of countries’ total goods and services for one year—of $60 trillion. Of this, the United States has nearly $15 trillion or about 25 percent, which is huge. During the next 30 years, the global GDP will grow to an estimated $200 trillion. So a new $140 trillion of customers, employees, new businesses, and equity will come into the global mix. The global war for jobs will be an all-out battle for that $140 trillion because within that sum of money is the next evolution of the best jobs in the world. Within that $140 trillion will rise the next economic empires, as well as the potential for societal hell.

World War II was a stunning military success that saved the world. Losing World War II would have ended America as the world knew it, not to mention much of the democratic Western world. It was a war for America’s very freedom, for the West’s freedom, for leadership of the free world. It was a war for all the marbles. Everything was on the line, and a loss would have changed everything.

The war for global jobs is like World War II: a war for all the marbles. The global war for jobs determines the leader of the free world. If the United States allows China or any country or region to out-enterprise it, out-job-create it, out-grow its GDP, everything changes.

This is America’s next war for everything.

Jim Clifton is the chairman and CEO of Gallup. He is the author of The Coming Jobs War (Gallup Press, October 2011). Article reprinted by permission of Gallup.


About The Author

Gallup’s picture


Gallup has studied human nature and behavior for more than 70 years. Gallup’s reputation for delivering relevant, timely, and visionary research on what people around the world think and feel is the cornerstone of the organization. Gallup employs many of the world’s leading scientists in management, economics, psychology, and sociology; and their consultants assist leaders in identifying and monitoring behavioral economic indicators worldwide. Gallup consultants help organizations boost organic growth by increasing customer engagement and maximizing employee productivity through measurement tools, coursework, and strategic advisory services. Gallup’s 2,000 professionals deliver services at client organizations, through the web, and in 40 offices around the world.


How to win some of the jobs battles

The U.S. can win many of the battles in the jobs war by aggressively promoting and implementing reshoring.  Balancing the $600B trade deficit will create about 8 million U.S. jobs and help solve the budget deficit problem.  Boston Consulting Group recently forecast that by 2015 many products would be more economically produced in the U.S. than imported from China.  For the economic trends to have a rapid impact on the behavior of major U.S. companies, however, the companies will have to calculate their total cost of offshoring.  Unfortunately, most companies’ calculations are rudimentary, rather than complete, mainly comparing prices rather than the entire cost of offshoring, as reported by Accenture and Archstone Consulting.  As a result, companies have offshored more than is in their own self interest.

To help these companies make better sourcing decisions the non-profit Reshoring Initiative, www.reshorenow.org, provides for free a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) software that helps them calculate the real offshoring impact on their P&L.  With clear evidence of the fragility of global supply chains, Chinese and other LLCC (Low Labor Cost Country) wages rising rapidly, the U.S. $ declining and oil soaring, this is the perfect time for U.S. companies to reevaluate their offshoring strategies and bring some of the sourcing home.

Readers can bring back jobs by asking their companies to reevaluate offshoring decisions. Suppliers can use the TCO software to convince their customers to reshore. 

You can reach me at harry.moser@comcast.net.

Flawed Study?

Why would they start at age 15? I realize in many countries people are working full time at that age, but I would venture that the norm for western countries is, if polled, people aged 15-18, would not be looking for a full time job if they are still a full time student. Doesn't that distort the data?

It's incredibly hard to believe that the global unemployment rate is in excess of 50% (Meaning the rest have part time jobs or no jobs). Can you zero in on the poll results by certain countries and show us how the poll compares to published results in each country? Just a hard concept to swallow without some more information.