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10 Fake Scarcities


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Skilled Technical Workers
Workers paint a construction vehicle. Skilled construction workers apparently would not be in short supply if the wages were higher. © Edward Rozzo/Corbis
Workers paint a construction vehicle. Skilled construction workers apparently would not be in short supply if the wages were higher. © Edward Rozzo/Corbis

Recent recessions have resulted in a seemingly insurmountable skills gap in which the skilled technology positions replacing manual laboring jobs in factories and elsewhere simply can't be filled because the available workforce lacks the necessary training. At least that's the narrative spewed by various business and political leaders. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that there are about 600,000 technical factory jobs available for candidates with the advanced know-how to perform them [source: Davidson].

Nonsense, say a vocal sector of labor economists who argue that it's the low money offered for these positions that make them hard to fill, rather than a dearth of skills. In other words, manufacturers want workers with education and technical capacity and are offering to pay them substantially less than the wages they can demand in other industries. Or, in some cases, just a little more than the local McDonald's. Even at the higher end of the spectrum, engineers and other technical workers are opting to go into more lucrative unrelated fields like finance and medicine, according to experts [sources: Davidson, Barger].