To further my earlier post on STEM oversupply, I took a look at historical graduate numbers and job openings (on a three year rolling average to smooth out fluctuations), using data from the ABS and the Department of Education & Training, accounting for not just retirement but also deaths and migration (though occupation data on skilled migrants isn’t available). In short – even under the old restricted entry system, graduates often outpaced opportunities but the combination of economic slowdown and increased access to education after the GFC has led to this gap widening to its present unsustainable level.
Deregulation of university places by the Gillard government has left a legacy of massive graduate oversupply. The chart above makes for stark reading, with many more graduates than jobs available for them in every field except IT, much like the situation in the US. The much vaunted STEM field, which Australia’s Chief Scientist declared should be “at the core of almost every agenda” is revealed to be a hollow wasteland, with 18 graduates for every job in the maths and sciences. The supposedly “always in demand” engineering sector provides a similar employment proposition to the much derided creative arts stream. Without jobs in their area of study, graduates in SEM will be forced outside it in order to find work, if indeed they can find skilled work at all given the depths of the oversupply. So how did we get here, and why is STEM still lionised as a cure-all to employability?
What do you do?
To this common icebreaker, one is expected to respond with their job title. But I write, I think, I analyse, I research, I design, I create, I photograph and I develop, there is much more to my abilities than just ‘Mechanical Services Engineer’ or ‘Software Developer’. The intellectual poverty of late stage Taylorism has driven us into tiny little silos with exceedingly specific skills, debasing our general abilites and as a result we are losing the ability to consider things holistically or systemically.
Our society isn’t working out well for ordinary people right now. Every politician wants to appear a saviour, a fount of fresh ideas which will solve those problems. Yet this rebellion against the establishment seems to be repeatedly turning towards figures from the top of that existing order. The Czech Republic turned to the ANO party in the weekend’s elections, yet this supposedly anti-establishment force is led by the country’s 2nd richest man, Andrej Babis. The United States famously elected billionaire and TV rich man Donald Trump as President last year, whose campaign was predicated on ‘draining the swamp’, and similar anti-establishment positions. France turned its back on their established parties by electing Emmanuel Macron as President and giving his new party a majority in the National Assembly, yet he had come from a background as a Rothschild investment banker and finance minister in government.
On the 1st of October, a gunman opened sustained machine gun fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, killing 59 and injuring hundreds more. Police and investigators still have no idea why. The gunman was a success by the standards of our society, a multimillionaire real estate developer who lived a privileged life as a high roller. He had no criminal history, no mental health problems, no discernable ideology. Yet he assembled an arsenal of 42 guns and planned his pre-meditated attack on a crowd of concert-goers. For all his material success, he must have been entirely unfulfilled by his life to even contemplate such an action.
Superheroes are enjoying an extended renaissance in popular culture. Five of the top 20 grossing films of all time have been superhero movies released within the past five years. At the same time, populist politicians have garnered their own fandoms with promises of strong action and simple solutions. Donald Trump is the God Emperor. Jeremy Corbyn is The Absolute Boy. I posit that these two trends are linked as a societal cry for someone who can fix the world by their power alone.
We believe that climate change represents one of the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenges of our age.
Australia now stands ready to assume its responsibility in responding to this challenge – both at home and in the complex negotiations which lie ahead across the community of nations.
For Australians, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is no longer a scientific theory. It is an emerging reality. In fact, what we see today is a portent of things to come.
In Australia, our inland rivers are dying; bushfires are becoming more ferocious, and more frequent; and our unique natural wonders – the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our rainforests – are now at risk.
This will sound familiar to many of our Pacific neighbours who are experiencing the impacts of rising sea levels, more frequent severe weather events and diminishing access to fresh water. And regrettably it is now an increasingly familiar story across the globe, as reflected in the critical conclusions of the Fourth IPCC Report released last month.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. Our choice will impact all future generations. This is, therefore, a problem which requires a global solution. It requires a multilateral solution. Unilateral action is not enough. We must all share the burden.
– Kevin Rudd, in his 2007 address to the UN.
I’m pulling together some research for a longer post, but I came across a paper which merited a separate look by itself. Blanchflower and Oswald’s 2005 paper looked at reported satisfaction of folks in a range of countries, as a counterpart to the Human Development Index (HDI). Although Australia ranks highly on the HDI (now 2nd per the most recent data), they found that Australia performs poorly on a range of happiness indicators, particularly job satisfaction. Are we flipping the old stereotypes and becoming whinging Aussies, or are there other effects at play?