The last article presented some of the changes we have experienced with the shift in rural residency to urban residency however, we need to continue with our review of social change that has occurred over the past 50 years and the influence it has had on life styles. These changes have drawn our population further away from understanding and appreciating our connection to the natural world, as well as influenced other life-style changes.
Our economy was based primarily on manufacturing from the mid 1940’s to the mid 1960’s. Unions had organized the labor force and managed to create good paying jobs with benefits which allowed families to live a middle class life-style and provide advanced educational opportunities for their aspiring children. Mothers were home makers and provided daily care and direction for the children. Parental influence was strong and our youth were inspired to achievements beyond what their parents had achieved. The productivity of the American worker led the world. The 1960’s and 70’s initiated a trend toward a worldwide economy, resulting in changes to our manufacturing industries as access to much cheaper labor became available. Advancements in transportation and communications opened the door to countries that offered a 90% savings in labor costs and eliminated costly benefit packages.
The result was a transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a technology base, which went on to experience a similar situation as manufacturing. Countries like India were producing college graduates that could be hired at a small fraction of the cost of U S technicians. Our economy is now based on service jobs which are generally low paying as compared to manufacturing or technology jobs. The result has been significant changes for the family and modern day life styles.
More and more people have moved to urban areas as the jobs tend to be located there and one can reduce commute time by living close to the work site. It is not uncommon for people to have more than one job in order to provide for their family and in most family’s both parents have jobs so as to live comfortably. Moving families for additional on-the-job training opportunities has become a thing of the past due to the expense and hardship it places on the family. The old thought, “20 different experiences was far better than the same experience 20 times over”, is a management concept of the past. This situation has slowed the promotional opportunities for many employees particularly for opportunities requiring managerial skills, due to limited breadth of experience.
Since the 1950’s, we have also seen a major increase in women pursuing professional careers and being highly successful in top management positions. This has resulted in changes in the family role for both parents. One result has been a declining size in the family. The average birth rate per family since 1950 has fallen from 3.4 children to 1.8. On the other hand, these changes have significantly reduced the mother’s time for child care and training requiring substituting grandparents or day care facilities outside the home for this job. This has resulted in many adverse impacts on child development and behavior. Today, both parents must participate in household duties and schedule time for all the outside demands requiring their involvement. Yes, that so-called 52 hours of free time is now crammed full of demands for time and financial school support, continuing education needs, community participation, professional groups and committees and the list goes on.
I have watched these changes and have seen the impacts it has on our society. The clock keeps running and we run faster and faster to try to keep up. We wonder why so many are searching for artificial means for relief and relaxation. Advanced technology takes us further away from the natural world and even reduces our socializing time with other people. It is difficult to go anywhere without observe people deeply engrossed with their smart phone rather than communicating with other people. We don’t have time to read, listen or search for information so, we depend on google! Help is need but, where can it be found? Since additional hours cannot be created, we search for help to meet my spiritual, emotional, financial, individual and family needs! Nice to know information on the internet is interesting but, help in understanding and coping with the issues confronting us daily is needed!
Management and leadership demand a deep understanding of the social changes we have experienced and relating these changes to the requirements of the American work force is essential if we expect to continue as a world leader and economic power. Trickle-down economics is not the answer but rather trickle-up knowledge of the social requirements of today’s life styles and the importance of the American workforce for the future is required! There has never been a time in our history when tearing down the barriers that separate us has been more necessary! Our future depends upon recognizing the necessity of diversity and working together to re-build our egalitarian democratic society!