Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Labor Markets’ Category

Men who play video games instead of working

with 68 comments

I’ve had this Washington Post article bookmarked for months, but never wrote a blog post about it.

“When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded,” he said. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

That sounds exactly like something I wrote about World of Warcraft in 2006 (more than 10 years ago!):

… Most people toil away at jobs where they never see any direct benefit from their hard work.

This is where World of Warcraft comes in and meets people’s unmet psychological needs. In WoW and similar games, your status increases slowly but surely every time you play. After so many hours in the game, you can see exactly how many more experience points you have, maybe your level has increased, maybe you have better armor or weapons than you had before. Unlike the real world, where you can work 40 hours of overtime and not even get paid for it, if you put an extra 40 hours into WoW you will definitely have something to show for it. Your status within the virtual world of WoW will have increased in ways you can clearly ascertain.

The question is, are video games the cause of men retreating from the conventional workforce, or a symptom?

I do think that video games, as well as other high-tech diversions like internet, social media, high definition TV, make being out of work more bearable and to some extent demotivates people from wanting to get back into the labor force (which for people without self-actualizing jobs is often unpleasant).

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Not so easy to become a plumber

There a certain chorus in the comments on this blog and other “alt-right” places advising that young people should become plumbers because it’s a lot better than getting a college degree.

This article at CBS New York is interesting:

Hundreds of young men are sleeping on the streets of Queens Sunday night for a shot at a job.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported they are waiting for an application to the Plumbers Union Apprenticeship Program. One thousand applications are handed out in order Monday morning. After tests and interviews, only a percentage are accepted to the five-year program.

“It’s a long shot, so hopefully I get it,” Anthony Hughes said.

It’s my impression that the open call for a thousand people to fill out the application is for show, and that the real way to get admitted is to know the right people.

* * *

It’s interesting that the article says “Hundreds of young men.” I would have expected it to say “hundreds of young people.” Is there not a single woman who wants the job? Isn’t it politically incorrect to imply that only men can become a plumber? Or is it because the SWPL who write the article has such contempt for the job, he assumes that women are smart enough not to want it?

* * *

Of course the reason why plumbers make such good salaries for blue-collar workers is because of barriers to entry like described in the article. If anyone who shows up could become a plumber, salaries would tank. There are already many times as many applicants as there are slots available, so it’s bad advice to advise even MORE people to try to become plumbers.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm

The NY Times editorial board moves in the correct direction on college, but…

So the NY Times editorial board finally notices that there are too many college graduates and not enough jobs.

[T]he economy does not produce enough jobs that require college degrees. Private-sector white-collar jobs can increasingly be moved offshore and automated, while public-sector jobs that require degrees, notably teaching, have been decimated by deep layoffs and feeble hiring. Business investment and consumer spending have suffered in the busts of recent decades, and government spending has not picked up the slack, leading to chronic shortfalls in demand for goods, services and employees. One sign of the downshift is that much of the recent job growth has been in lower-paying occupations. Worse, there is little evidence of a turnaround. In the past five years, postings for jobs that do not require a college degree have steadily outpaced postings for those that do.

Unfortunately, the Editorial Board is clueless about the most obvious way to increase outcomes for college graduates. We need less immigration. Immigrants are streaming into the country and they are taking jobs that could have been done by American college graduates.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

Posted in Labor Markets

Comment from a computer programmer type

Following copied from commenter:

Whenever LOTB posts yet another blog entry about the supposedly pathetic world of computer programming, he unleashes a veritable avalanche of some of the most mean-spirited and/or self-loathing comments available on the web. Give it a rest, haters! What do you expect young folks to do nowadays? Go to law school? Join the army and get their balls blown off in some useless war in the Middle East? Go back to their alma mater to take organic chemistry, and then spend ten years in med school, an internship and a residency, up to their elbows in blood and gore? And then what about all that sky-high malpractice insurance and those gigantic debts on their student loans that they’ll have to face afterwards? Or maybe they should qualify as plumbers and dunk those self-same elbows in feces all day long? I graduated magna cum laude with a humanities degree from a top 30 national university. I did well enough that my advisor told me I should apply to Harvard and Yale for graduate school. I even remember walking down the hall in the humanities building one day and heard a professor extolling a brilliant paper which, as I found out to my delight after listening a little while longer, I myself had written. But heterosexual WASP males had no chance of finding a teaching position, either then or now, so after floundering around for a few years, I spent five grand on a quickie six month programming course that I completed in two months – and I have been continuously employed ever since. And that was thirty years ago. I’ve spent more than half that time as a contractor, a few years here and there in management gigs, but otherwise working as a lead analyst/designer/programmer/technical writer & debugger with an income over $100,000 for the last twenty years. I work only 40 hours a week, interfacing with many bright people in a clean and quiet place, leaving plenty of time for my numerous hobbies and interests, not to mention communing with my splendid wife, and giving me enough money to pay off my mortgage on a Victorian house in a leafy Boston suburb, to indulge regularly in restaurant dining, and to have visited Europe four times in the last twelve years. (And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.) Back in the early nineties I DID consider graduate school for a while, scored triple 800’s on the GRE’s at a time when that was super hard to do, but relented at the last moment. I realized I might as well stay the course, and have not regretted it since. So go call me an “idiot” or an “Aspergery beta” if you want, but just look in the mirror first.

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Lion’s commentary:

Give the commenter a break regarding his choice not to have children. No one has a responsibility to devote their lives to an abstract principle of eugenics that mainstream society has rejected anyway.

Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn are having eight children per married couple, so let’s hope they have better-than-average genes because there are going to be a lot of them in a few decades.

Regarding the $100K salary: it’s better than digging ditches certainly but it’s not that impressive compared to what upper-middle-class people are making. Although I admit that we live in a cruel extreme-capitalist society where many good and smart people make a lot less than that while many dumb people make a lot more.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 3, 2016 at 11:40 am

Posted in Labor Markets

Not enough children of color in computer science?

Huffington Post headline reads Obama Wants More Girls And Kids Of Color To Learn Computer Science

A comment reads:

Not enough “kids of color” in computer science? Last I checked their were plenty of Asians and Indians in the computer science field.

Ha ha.

Here’s a more serious comment:

I feel like president Obama and the 9 out of 10 parents should first understand what computer science actually means before making statements like that. Saying that computer science is a fundamental skill to have, is like saying that particle physics is a fundamental skill to have. Troubleshooting computers and maintaining computer networks is not computer science, so is not programming. Just like a physicist, Computer Scientists are interested in understanding fundamental principles about the universe. We know that there is gravity but we certainly do not expect anyone to know about gravitational laws if they do not wish to know, why forcing them? I think what the president and the parents actually mean is practical computer skills such as programming, networking and troubleshooting.

I agree that more children, including white children, should be exposed to practical computer skills. Just as I had typing when I was in the sixth grade, it’s even more important for today’s children to have computer skills, and programming ought to be taught as a required subject for college-bound students.

We should also restrict immigration from India so that American young people can get jobs in IT.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 30, 2016 at 1:16 pm

It pays to have a self-actualizing career

Megan Hilty works in theater and her husband, Brian Gallagher, is an actor and musician, but they live in a modern-construction two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with great views and its own washer/drier. Perhaps $6,000/month?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 26, 2016 at 11:25 am

Another notorious person I knew

The guy described in this article. I only knew him as a little kid (several years my junior) because his parents, who were friends of my parents, moved to Florida before I was even a teenager.

An interesting story about how a kid who my mother always described as the least intelligent of their three children became extremely rich by knowing the right people and being an aggressive salesman. And then he turned to what sounds like fraud in order to become even richer. (Although it always seemed to me that even “honest” financial services sales are borderline fraud.)

Please don’t mention the kid’s name in the comments, to avoid this post showing up when people try to Google him.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 8, 2016 at 8:23 am

Posted in Labor Markets

CMM Level 5 and India

India has more CMM Level 5 certified companies than the rest of the world combined. Indians are very good at bureaucracy, which is what CMM Level 5 is about. Creative white programmers, the kind who create successful and popular apps, could never put up with that sort of stifling bureaucracy.

CMM Level 5 doubles the amount of manpower needed to create software, but because Indian employees are so cheap, they are able to be Level 5 compliant and still less expensive than western companies.

* * *

In response to a comment, if you really want to know about CMM, here’s a Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_Maturity_Model

Basically, it means there’s lot’s of documentation and QA and management, which doesn’t mean the software is actually any good.

* * *

I found the following comment at an online forum:

It sucks all the fun out of writing software. An awful methodology. I left the company that used it after only 3 months (would have been sooner if I found another job sooner).

Indians don’t expect to have fun at work. Which doesn’t necessarily give them the advantage you might think, because the best software is going to be written by people who actually enjoy what they are doing.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Labor Markets

The bamboo ceiling

unam writes in a comment:

there seems to be a lot of anti-asian stuff floating around here. Hate to break the bubble for you guys, but if you look at the ivy;s and all the top schools, its like 20-25% asian. These guys might be employees for the first 10 or 15 years, but then the cream of the crop will shoot through like for every other group. So you will most likely than not be working under an asian guy/gal. Don’t kid yourself and pretend otherwise. The writing is on the wall.

It’s unfortunate that there is so much anti-Asian stuff floating around here. I need to be a little more discriminating when approving comments.

However, with respect to East Asians, I don’t see them moving up the corporate ladder. East Asians are underrepresented in corporate management positions relative to their dominance in top schools. Asians have the wrongful notion that high quality work is rewarded, but that’s not the case. Corporate America promotes extroverted people who are good at networking and schmoozing with their bosses. East Asians are too introverted to get promoted, and there’s no affirmative action to help them along. There’s a bamboo ceiling and the ceiling is pretty darn low to the ground.

On the other hand, I do see Indians being promoted, especially in IT departments, but even outside of IT. Unlike introverted East Asians, Indians (also considered “Asians” by the U.S. Census) are almost as extroverted as white Americans. They also have a lack of creativity and love of bureaucracy that corporate America seems to like very much, at least for middle management positions.

Once an Indian gets promoted to a position where they have the power to hire more people, they tend to hire mostly Indians.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 28, 2015 at 2:42 pm

JerseyGuy’s update on the declining U.S. computer software industry

In September, 2010 JerseyGuy wrote:

I have seen this transition with my father’s computer systems programming and software development company here in Northern NJ. The company consists of around 100 employees located in Northern NJ and Southeastern Pennsylvania. I’m only 26 years old but I remember as recently as 1998 that the company was virtually 100% native born American. However, in the early to mid 2000s, this has completely changed. Now my dad says that at least 60% of the company is foreign born, mostly Indian, as well as a few East Asians and Eastern Europeans. He did confirm to me that the wages for the programmers and systems analysts have pretty much stagnated for the last decade, even as the company has grown. In addition, the American workforce has stagnated as programmers are being used from India, China and Eastern Europe. These people all work remotely from their home countries. The quality of the foreign born workforce? He says that they are pretty much average. Certainly smart. Certainly competent. But by no means MIT or Carnegie Mellon level computer scientists. They are pretty much the quality that you would get from an above average U.S. state school.

Again, my father has worked at this company for about 30 years. The first 20 had virtually a 100% American workforce. Now in the last 10, it has gone to 60% foreign born. My dad isn’t concerned about his job but he is concerned about the next generation of American programmers. If all of the labor force can be imported at lower wages, or done by a foreign work force working remotely in other countries, where does this all end?

We were told that we could offshore our manufacturing and still rely on “higher valued added” services.
Now what do we do?

Today he writes:

So I can’t believe that this is from over five years ago but wanted to give you an update on what is happening in the computer programming industry according to my 64 year old father and what is happening in the public accounting field according to my first-hand experience.

First, my father. He’s still with the same company in Northern NJ. Still about 100 employees and the Company is doing well. However, about 60% of the Company is now in Chennai, India. Yes, the higher level work is still done in the United States. But, according to him, more and more of the work has been shifted to India. We spoke about this in reference to the latest rain storm to hit Chennai that virtually shut down the city for a few weeks. He was saying that the employees in India were doing basic programming and that it would be difficult to quickly shift the work to the United States. I asked him about much they pay in the US for this type of work. He said about $30 – $40 / hour, which isn’t too bad at all. Then, I asked him much they pay those employees in India. $8 – $10 / hour!!! About one quarter of our wages!

Ok, so now onto my profession of public accounting. They recently published the billing rates for our India office, in which we are now being advised to use as much as possible. Essentially, their billing rates are 25% of our billing rates in the US. 25%! It’s so outrageous. To put this into perspective, the billing rates for Senior Managers in India (which make on average approximately $140K in the US) are actually 20% less than the billing rates for our administrators and typists in the US! That means that Senior Managers in India are paid about 20% less than employees who have either a high school diploma or at most, an associates degree.

I could go on with another story about a 60 year old programmer I know who was just laid off from Verizon Wireless in NJ. He actually said he was planning to retire this year and had accumulated enough wealth to do so. He didn’t take is too harshly but he did mention that other programmers in their early 50s were also laid off. He indicated that they are transferring a third of the workforce to India and are building a facility in Irving, Texas in which H1B workers are being brought in to replace American jobs.
Essentially, the moral of the story is that these were supposed to be the jobs of the future. It was ok that manufacturing was being shipped overseas as long as we kept our “value-added” jobs in programmer and public accounting. Now, these jobs are being shipped overseas at a quarter of the labor cost!

No matter how many regulations that we cut or stream-line, there is simply no way that Americans or others in the West can compete with 3rd world labor on a large scale. To finish, a lot of people on the Right are wondering when people are going to “wake up”. I don’t think it will be crime or public looting in some post-industrial town. I think it will occur when outsourcing (and H1B importation) reaches criticality and enough middle and upper middle class jobs are lost.

My observation is that computer programming and accounting (to a slightly lesser degree) are jobs that don’t require good command of the English language or understanding of American culture, which makes them easy to outsource to India, or insource to Indian immigrants.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 21, 2015 at 7:16 pm

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