Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - Page 9 News List

The decline of the upwardly mobile

Economic inequality is real, but it can be addressed effectively only with policies and programs that foster growth and meaningful opportunities to benefit from it

By Richard Haass

Reforming curricula is equally important.

High schools and what are known in the US as community colleges — post-secondary institutions that typically offer a two-year degree — need to provide courses tailored for jobs that exist or soon will. Close cooperation between employers and schools should be fostered, as is often done in countries such as Germany, and education has to be made available inexpensively and efficiently to people throughout their lives, not just at the outset of their careers.

It is also important to be wary about some ideas often put forward as solutions, such as requiring large increases in the minimum wage paid to hourly workers. The danger is that it will discourage businesses from hiring. It would be better to keep wage increases modest so that people get jobs, and to look for other ways to subsidize education and healthcare for those who need such help.

Inequality is real, but it can be addressed effectively only with policies and programs that foster growth and meaningful opportunities to benefit from it. The stakes are great, as economic growth and social cohesion depend on getting this right, but getting it right requires understanding that inequality is not so much the cause as it is the consequence of what ails us.

Richard Haass is president of US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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