The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has issued a report detailing sobering statistics about men in their prime who may never return to the U.S. workforce. Prime-aged men, 29 – 54 years old, have been posting dwindling labor participation rates.
Here are highlights from Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force?, the report written by Didem Tuzemen, an economist at the Kansas City Fed:
- In 1996, 4.6 million prime-age men did not participate in the labor force. By 2016, this number had risen to 7.1 million.
- From 1996 to 2016, the non-participation rate for younger prime-age men surged from 6.7 percent to 11.3 percent, a 67.0 percent increase.
- As of January, 89 percent of prime-age men were in the labor force, down from around 97 percent following World War II, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That includes people who are working, or are unemployed and actively looking for a job.
- Over the same period, the non-participation rate for men in the 35–44 age group rose from 7.6 to 9.5 percent (a 25.1 percent in-crease), while the non-participation rate for men in the 45–54 group rose from 10.8 to 13.4 percent (a 24.4 percent increase).
- Based on self-reported responses, only one-third of the increase in the number of non-participating younger prime-age men was related to being in school.
- Technological advancements help explain why the share of workers employed in middle-skill jobs has fallen so sharply. Middle-skill jobs are considered “routine” occupations, as workers typically perform tasks that are procedural and rule-based. The tasks performed in many of these jobs have become automated by computers and machines.
- Most of the displaced middle-skill workers permanently dropped out of the labor force.
As labor participation rates decrease, artificial intelligence rises and financial instability grows, cryptocurrencies are paving a volatile path to something other than a vanishing job.
In The New Yorker, writer Anna Weiner characterizes the activists, artists and academics who are investing in cryptocurrencies. “Their career paths and aspirations are precarious, their financial futures uncertain. There is the feeling that, if the tech industry hasn’t already come for their livelihoods, then it’s only a matter of time. Investing in cryptocurrency is an experiment, a hedge against the future, something of a Hail Mary pass.”
Technologists, such as Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, have been vocal about the plight of man-hours and why they support unconditional cash, basic income or universal basic income as a means to catch the fallen. While opponents blast UBI proposals as stripping away the American work ethic, proponents make the distinction that UBI stands for basic human rights to food, clothing and shelter. For them, the move is widely viewed as an effort to address automation and the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs. Cryptocurrencies like Grantcoin are working to bring UBI and blockchain together, to try and pave the way for a new economy that distributes money and resources equitably.