An interesting debate emerged recently when it was revealed that the UK actually has more jobless teenagers than Slovenia.
Straight away of course there were the usual "well what do you expect with all the foreigners coming over here" type comments and others blaming the generation before them for voting for this, that and the other, but it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing) - would it be silly to suggest that it's nothing to do with immigration, baby boomers, Generation X or indeed Gen Y and their apparently self-assured yet quirky ways, but rather the advance of technology that has led to far less need for manual labour and thus far fewer jobs in so many areas of business?
Yes, I know we've been through a recession and the economic climate isn't great and thus the employment market is suffering, but even if things were rosier in that direction, with a growing population, a decreasing manufacturing base over recent decades and technology's non-stop advances resulting in far fewer employment opportunities in so many business sectors other than perhaps care, cleaning, hospitality, farming and retail (much of which has gone online), will the unemployment figures ever look really healthy again in the foreseeable? Why, even my local library is fully automated now. No need to speak to another human being at all!
Without wishing to sound too deep, is technology's relentless and unstoppable advance inevitably going to lead to a continuous decline in every day employment terms? As I say, you can't stop it, but there will surely always be consequences and a price to pay. As an illustration of how technology can make up for a human shortfall, can you imagine 20 or 30 years ago a bank announcing they were laying off thousand upon thousand of staff in one fell swoop? Commonplace now as so much of what they do is automated, but where do those people who have lost their jobs go to? Sadly these days, into despair in many instances. It's a very worrying situation, and one that, unless our children become properly technologically savvy, i.e. over and above knowing how to spend hours on the X Box or Playstation and actually develop skills in the technology arena, rather than just be the obsessed end user, it could lead to long term employment for an ever increasing number of people in generations to come simply because there won't be nearly enough jobs to go round to even make a dent in the unemployment figures or because they don't have the skills the ever more technology driven future will demand.
Or am I simply being too dramatic?