Service Sector, White Collar/ Professional Sector Jobs

 

 Blue collar worker – is a working class employee who performs manual or technical labor, such as in a factory or in technical maintenance trades. Originally it referred to the dress code of workplaces. Industrial blue-collar workers formerly, and to a large extent still, wear work clothes which may be scraped or soiled at work. The dress code may also feature protection from work-related industries. Examples are hard hats, heavy work boots etc. Some elements of blue collar workers are the lesser requirements for academic education. Training is often learned on the job. Generally the pay for such occupation is lower than that of the of the white collar counterpart, although higher than many entry-level service occupations.

 

White Collar Worker- performs tasks which are less laborious yet often more highly paid than blue collar workers, who do manual work. They are salaried professionals (such as doctors or lawyers), as well as employees in administrative or clerical positions. The name derives from the traditional white, button down shirts worn by workers of such professions. Formerly a minority in the agrarian and early industrial societies, they have become a majority in industrialized countries. Generally, the pay rate is higher among white collar workers.

 

Boom of the 1950s

Gross national product began to climb haltingly in 1948. Then, beginning about 1950, the American economy surged onto a dazzling plateau of sus­tained growth that was to last virtually uninter­rupted for two decades. America's economic performance became the envy of the world. National income nearly doubled in the 1950s and almost doubled again in the 1960s, shooting through the trillion-dollar mark in 1973. Americans some 6 percent of the world's people, were enjoying about 40 percent of the planet's wealth.

Nothing loomed larger in the history of the post-World War 11 era than this fantastic eruption in affluence. It did not enrich all Americans, and it did not touch all people evenly, but it transformed the lives of a majority of citizens and molded the agenda of politics and society for at least two generations. Prosperity underwrote social mobility; paved the way for the eventual success of the civil rights movement; it funded vast new welfare pro­grams, like Medicare; and it gave Americans the confidence to exercise unprecedented international leadership in the Cold War era.

As the gusher of postwar prosperity poured forth its riches, Americans drank deeply from the gilded goblet. Millions of depression-pinched souls sought to make up for the sufferings of the 1930’s. They determined to "get theirs" while the getting was good. A people who had once considered a chicken in every pot the standard of comfort and Security now hungered for two cars in every garage, swimming pools in their backyards, vacation homes, and gas-guzzling recreational vehicles. The size of the "middle class," defined as households earning between $3,000 and $10,000 a year, doubled from pre--Great Depression days and included 60 percent of the American people by the mid-1950s. By the end of that decade, the vast majority of American families owned their own car and washing machines, and nearly 90 percent owned a television set-a gadget invented in the 1920s, but virtually unknown until the late 1940s. In another revolution of sweeping consequences, almost 60, percent of American families owned their own homes by 1960, compared with less than 40 percent in the 1920s.

     Of all the beneficiaries of postwar prosperity, none reaped greater rewards than women. More than ever, urban offices and shops provided a bonanza of employment for female workers. The great majority of new jobs created in the postwar era went to women, as the service sector of the economy dramatically outgrew the old industrial and manufacturing sectors. Women accounted for a quarter of the American work force at the end of World War II and for nearly half of the labor pool five decades later. Yet even as women continued their march into the workplace in the 1940s and 1950s popular culture glorified the traditional feminine roles of homemaker and mother. The clash between the demands of suburban housewifery and the realities of employment eventually sparked a feminist revolt in the 1960s.

 Roots of Postwar Prosperity

     What propelled this unprecedented economic explosion? The Second World War itself provided a powerful stimulus. While other countries had been 'waged by years of fighting, the United States had used the war crisis to fire up its smokeless factories and rebuild its depression-plagued economy. Invigorated by battle, America had almost effortlessly come to dominate the ruined global land­scape of the postwar period.

Ominously, much of the glittering prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s rested on the underpinnings of colossal military budgets, leading some critics to speak of a "permanent war economy." The economic upturn of 1950 was fueled by massive appro­priations for the Korean War, and defense spending accounted for some 10 percent of the GNP through­out the ensuing decade. Pentagon dollars primed the pumps of high-technology industries such as aerospace, plastics, and electronics--areas in which the United States reigned supreme over all foreign competitors. The military budget also financed much scientific research and development ("R and D”) -hence the name of one of the most famous "think tanks," the Rand Corporation). More than ever before, unlocking the secrets of nature was the key to unleashing economic growth.

Cheap energy also fed the economic boom. American and European companies controlled the flow of abundant petroleum from the sandy expanses of the Middle East, and they kept prices low. Americans doubled their consumption of inex­pensive and seemingly inexhaustible oil in the quarter-century after the war. Anticipating a limit­less future of low-cost fuels, they flung out endless ribbons of highways, installed air-conditioning in their homes, and engineered a six fold increase in the country's electricity-generating capacity between 1945 and 1970. Spidery grids of electrical cables carried the pent-up power of oil, gas, coal, and falling water to activate the tools of workers on the factory floor.

With the forces of nature increasingly harnessed in their hands, workers chalked up spectacular gains in productivity-the amount of output per hour of work. In the two decades after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, productivity increased at an average rate of more than 3 percent per year. Gains in productivity were also enhanced by the ris­ing educational level of the work force. By 1970 nearly 90 percent of the school-age population was enrolled in educational institutions-a dramatic contrast with the opening years of the century, when only half of this age group had attended school. Better educated and better equipped, American workers in 1970 could produce' nearly twice as much in an hour's labor as they had in 1950. Productivity was the key to prosperity. Rising productivity in the 1950s and 1960s virtually doubled the average American’s standard of living in the postwar quarter-century.

Also contributing to the vigor of the postwar economy were some momentous changes in the nation's basic economic structure. Conspicuous was the accelerating shift of the work force out of agri­culture, which achieved productivity gains virtually unmatched by any other economic sector. The fam­ily farm nearly became an antique artifact as con­solidation produced giant agribusinesses able to employ costly machinery. Thanks largely to mechanization and to rich new fertilizers-as well as to government subsidies and price supports--one farm worker by the century's end could produce food for over fifty people, compared with about fif­teen people in the 1940s. Farmers whose forebears had busted sod with oxen or horses now plowed their fields in air-conditioned tractor cabs, listening on their stereophonic radios to weather forecasts or the latest Chicago commodities market quotations. Once the mighty backbone of the agricultural Republic, and still some 15 percent of the labor force at the end of World War II, farmers made up a slim 2 percent of the American population by the 1990s -yet they fed much of the world.

Changing Economic Patterns

The continuing post-World War II economic boom wrought wondrous changes in .American society in the 1950s. Prosperity triggered a fabulous surge in home construction, as a nation of renters became a nation of homeowner. One of every four homes standing in America in 1960 had been built during the 1950s, and 83 percent of those new homes were in suburbia.

More than ever, science and technology drove economic growth. The invention of the transistor in 1948 sparked a revolution in electronics, and espe­cially in computers. The first electronic computers assembled in the 1940s were massive machines with hundreds of miles of wiring and thousands of fickle cathode ray tubes. Transistors and, later, printed cir­cuits on silicon wafers made possible dramatic miniaturization and phenomenal computational speed. Computer giant International Business Machines (IBM) expanded robustly, becoming the prototype of the "high-tech" corporation in the dawning "information age." Eventually, personal computers and even inexpensive pocket calculators contained more computing power than room size early models. Computers transformed age­-oId business practices like billing and inventory control and opened genuine new frontiers in areas like airline scheduling, high-speed printing, and telecommunications.

Aerospace industries also grew fantastically in the 1950s, thanks both to Eisenhower's aggressive buildup of the Strategic Air Command and to a robustly expanding passenger airline business- and to the connections between military and aircraft production. In 1957 the Seattle-based Boeing Company the first large passenger  jet, the  ”707”        Its design owed much to the previous development of SACs long-range strategic  bomber, the B-52. Two years later Boeing delivered the  first presidential jet, a specially modified "Air Force One" dazzled President Eisenhower with its speed and comfort.

The nature of the work force was also changing.

a sort of quiet revolution was marked in 1956; when "white-collar" workers for the first time outnumbered "blue-collar" workers, signaling the passage from an industrial to a postindustrial era. Keeping pace with that fundamental transformation, organized labor withered along with the smokestack industries that had been its sustenance. Union membership as a percentage of the labor force,peaked at about 35 percent in 1954 and then went into steady decline. Some observers concluded that the union movement had played out its historic role of empowering workers and ensuring economic jus­tice, and that unions would eventually disappear altogether in the postindustrial era.

The surge in white-collar employment opened special opportunities for women. When World War II ended, most women, including those who had worked in war plants, returned to highly conven­tional female roles as wives and mothers-the remarkably prolific mothers of the huge "baby boom" generation. A. "cult of domesticity" emerged in popular culture to celebrate those eternal femi­nine functions. When 1950s television programs like "Ozzie and Harriet" or "Leave It to Beaver" depicted idyllic suburban families with a working husband, two children, and a wife who did not work outside the home, they did so without irony; much of mid­dle-class America really did live that way. But as the 1950s progressed, another quiet revolution was gaining momentum that was destined to transform women's roles and even the character of the Ameri­can family.

Of some 40 million new jobs created in the three decades after 1950, more than 30 million were in clerical and service work. Women filled the huge majority of these new positions. They were the prin­cipal employment beneficiaries of the postwar era, creating an extensive "pink-collar ghetto" of occu­pations that were dominated by women.

Exploding employment opportunities for women in the 1950s unleashed a groundswell of social and psychological shocks that mounted to tidal-wave proportions in the decades that followed. From one perspective, women's surge into the work­place was nothing new at all, but only a return to the days when the United States was an agricultural nation, and men and women alike toiled on the family farm. But the urban age was not the agricul­tural age, and women's new dual role as both work­ers and homemakers raised urgent questions about family life and about traditional definitions of gen­der differences.

 

The New Workplace

As the shift from a manufacturing to a service and knowledge-based economy continues, the rise of new industries is creating new jobs. In addition, modern technology is changing the nature of many existing jobs, requiring new knowledge and a new set of skills. Now, more than 100 million Americans (nearly 80 per­cent of the total workforce) work in occupations that are service-related or information-related.

The Virtual Workplace As electronic commerce and Internet business grows, fewer people will work in cen­tral offices, retail stores and other facilities. Analysts believe that the virtual workplace, allowing employees to work from any location with a computer and Internet connection, will become more preva­lent. Ideally, the virtual workplace makes use of technology and other work innovations to enable employees to work together across space and time. Workers in a virtual workplace require a highly cus­tomized set of skills, ranging from highly technical specialties to working independently in a network or on a string of virtual teams.

Job Trends jobs requiring postsecondary, vocation, or higher education are expected to grow as a share of total employment. Positions calling for individuals with at least an associate's degree are expected to increase from 31 percent of all jobs in 1996 to 32.4 percent it 2006. Along with an increase in the number of high - skilled jobs, the number of low-skilled jobs is expected to grow. Occupations predicted to show the larger increases include cashiers, janitors, retail salespersons, and restaurant workers. Low -skilled occupations are expected to account for 13 percent of all new job growth.

A survey of more than 400 of the fastest-growing U.S. firms over a five-year period points to the importance of education and training. Over one­-half of the entry-level positions offered by the firms require a high school diploma and often at feast two years of post-high school studies. Nearly 40 percent of the firms require a four-year college degree, and an additional 7 percent require comple­tion of postgraduate studies. The companies' CFOs place great importance on math skills. "Mastering chal­lenging mathematics is more important than ever before for our students," noted U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. "Algebra is considered a new basic.”

Government Employees

Civilian Employees

Government bureaucracy has grown at a steady pace at the federal, state, and local levels. In the past 20 years private sector union membership has shrunk, while public sector unions have record membership. Most of this growth in public employment has been at the state and local levels.

Today there are 18 million civilian government employees, up from 8.5 million in 1960 and 4.5 million in 1940. For the first time ever, in 1992 there were more civilian public sector employees than manufacturing employees in the
U.S., as shown in Figure 11.




Figure 11


Government Employment Outpacing Manufacturing Employment




With the growth in the number of government workers, America has witnessed a growth in government payrolls:

• In 1940 government spent $5 billion on monthly payroll.

• In 1960 government spent $14 billion on monthly payroll.

• In 1990 government spent $36 billion on monthly payroll.

Although the 1980s are conventionally believed to have been a decade of hardship for public employees, the truth is that on the state and local levels government pay went up much faster than private sector pay. A 1992 report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) shows:

Average state and local government employee compensation (including wages, salaries, and employee benefits) has been rising more quickly than average private employee compensation for 40 years . . . . Average state and local government employee compensation increased by an inflation- adjusted 14.6 percent, or $4,031, in 1989 compared to 1980. For every new dollar of average compensation increase for private sector employees, state and local government employees received more than $4.20.



 
Military Employees

The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest employer in the United States—public or private. The number of Americans employed in the armed services has continually risen


• In 1800 there were 7,000 military personnel.

• In 1850 there were 20,000 military personnel.

• In 1900 there were 125,000 military personnel.

• In 1950 there were 1,500,000 military personnel.

• In 1990 there were 2,200,000 military personnel.

These numbers do not include any of the civilians who work for defense contractors producing weapons, providing equipment, and performing research and development. If these indirect government workers, part of the military-industrial complex, were included, the employment numbers could easily double.