The endangered American? | VICTOR DAVIS HANSON

“Help Wanted” and “Hiring in Progress” signs are everywhere. Flights, construction projects and health care services are delayed – or unavailable – due to labor shortages.

Spiral of hourly and monthly wages. There is a growing imbalance between the number of jobs available and the decreasing number of workers needed to fill them.

What’s going on?

During the COVID-19 shutdown and economic downturn that lasted nearly two years, companies cut costs by laying off millions of employees. As a result, some in their early or mid-60s simply retired early and never returned to work. The federal and state governments have also greatly expanded financial support for the unemployed. Other workers thought they wouldn’t earn much more working and so stayed home on government cheques.

Other former full-time employees have grown accustomed to the new, more leisurely lifestyle and are reluctant to return to a full 40-hour work week. Employers are also now convinced that a hard recession is looming in early 2023, when the trillions of dollars in newly printed money will be exhausted. Many are ready to put up with labor shortages now, rather than hire too many workers to sit idle when consumer demand soon slumps.

Well, over 100 million Americans have probably had COVID. It is estimated that 10-30% do not recover for months or even years. Thus, millions of COVID long-haulers remain either unable to work or can only work part-time.

Yet no one has yet fully gauged the effect of millions of newly disabled people on the American economy. Add up all those dark clouds and America is having a perfect storm, in which only 61% of the capable workforce is currently officially employed.

Unfortunately, there are also longer-term structural labor issues for the US economy that make it unlikely that a new, larger generation of workers will enter the labor market any time soon. And so far, Silicon Valley hasn’t produced its long-promised artificially intelligent robots that would allow machines to do much of people’s work.

Certainly, there are more potential parents than ever before. And the US population has soared to over 330 million. But our population is stabilizing radically.

In just 14 years, the fertility rate has dropped from 2.12 to 1.64, which means that citizens and resident aliens in America are not replacing each other. While past demographic momentum has led to record population, the United States has already reached a demographic peak. And it will soon shrink and age further.

Thirty years ago, America had 80 million fewer inhabitants, but a quarter of a million more births each year.

What explains the disappearance of the American?

Historically, as Westernized cultures become wealthier and more idle, whether ancient Rome or modern America and Europe, they give birth to fewer children, even if their appetite for more domestic and personal help increases.

Life is apparently considered too good to invest years in raising children. Americans certainly marry later. They have fewer children – and in their thirties rather than their twenties. Women now make up nearly 60% of undergraduate students. Women’s professional careers and delaying or avoiding a birth are considered essential to future family income.

With college-successful men now accounting for 70% of declining undergraduate enrollment, there are far too few college-graduating men for the new majority cohort of female graduates. of the University.

The real gender crisis in America is these apathetic, stuck 20-year-old men. Too many people are still living at home, not working full-time, often in debt, addicted to social media, video games or satisfying their appetites – and with little interest in getting married, let alone raising children.

Currently, only 65% ​​of children grow up in families with both parents.

The 2012 Obamacare ad, “The Life of Julia,” focused on the ideal new American woman: a single mother of one child, unmarried and entirely dependent on nearly 65 years of government support. The 2013 follow-up ad fetishized “Pajama Boy”. He was supposed to be a typical teenager, a man-child – sitting at home in his boyish pajamas, sipping hot chocolate.

“Pajama Boy” was probably the type that “Julia” had no intention of marrying.

There are historical downsides – economic, cultural, social and military – to nations that avoid raising children. They shrink, age, no longer believe in transcendence, become mostly agnostic or atheist and obsessed with themselves. And sometimes they end up becoming dysfunctional – and slowly disappearing.

Victor Davis Hanson is a Distinguished Fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a Classics and Historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Contact him at [email protected]

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