As economies develop and become richer, manufacturing – “making things” – inevitably becomes less important. But if this happens more rapidly than workers can acquire advanced skills, the result can be a dangerous imbalance between an economy’s productive structure and its workforce. We can see the consequences all over the world, in the form of economic underperformance, widening inequality, and divisive politics.
Not exactly. In the US, manufacturing is as important as ever – it just doesn’t need as many workers. Better tools, computer, and robots have combined to greatly reduce the need for manufacturing jobs, so it’s easy to agree with Rodrik’s conclusion – a dangerous imbalance indeed. However, the solution isn’t to ramp up manufacturing to absurd levels in order to meet employment goals. The solution must be to equip workers with the skills that are needed in a modern world. That’s the real imperative.