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Calling Workers Low-Skilled

Calling Workers Low-Skilled

It’s common in economics to refer to labor that does not require extensive specialized training or certification as “unskilled.” But used outside of the academic field, it’s a term that obscures much more than it reveals.

By implying low-skilled workers inherently don’t have the academic chops to do the higher-paid, remote, work-from-home job


99 reads

Low Wages For Essential Workers

When people refer to low-skill workers, the more precise term would be low-wage. There is nothing inherently unskilled about standing in a hot kitchen for hours cooking or picking countless pieces of fruit every day in the blistering heat.

This isn’t a pedantic distinction. The failure to understand that skill does not track with wages often leads people to advocate for bad policies that don’t actually help low-wage workers access a more financially stable future.


78 reads

Skills Gap

Policymakers have often erred in attempting to respond to unemployment issues by trying to make employees more “skilled.”

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, pundits and politicians alike made a ton of noise about the so-called “skills gap,” essentially blaming workers for not having the right credentials or expertise for the jobs that were available.


64 reads

The Truth Behind A Skills Gap

During a recession, the balance of power is in employers’ hands. Bosses knew that many people were out of work; they could stand to be picky when it came to hiring and so they demanded more credentials, complaining when applicants didn’t meet that high bar. Only when the labor market tilted in workers’ favor did they bother to take less obviously credentialed applicants more seriously and stop bleating about a “skills gap.”


61 reads

How Wages Are Determined

Wages aren’t based on skills, they’re based on scarcity and want. You could be the best Ping-Pong champion in the world, and if nobody wants to watch Ping-Pong you probably won’t make a living playing the sport.

Alternatively, you could be a terrible construction worker, but if there’s a severe enough shortage of people needed to build houses, you could get by without ever improving your “skills.”


67 reads

The Bottomline

During the pandemic, the government has pursued expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. As a result, many workers have been empowered to find new and better jobs fueling the “Great Resignation” as they abscond from their employers for better opportunities. These workers did not suddenly become more skilled over the last two years, they gained leverage in a labor market that can no longer demand they jump through hoops in order to do a job they always had the ability to do.


49 reads



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