This new report sounds an alarm regarding a possible decline in United States competitiveness, especially in the areas of technology, innovation, and the role of advanced science and engineering degrees in maintaining our competitive edge. The port points out that some recent reports have argued that our competitive edge remains strong. But, the authors argue, that there are disturbing signs that in recent years, other nations are catching up with us. The report uses a scoring system to report competitiveness (see at the bottom of this post);
Innovation and productivity are supported by a highly educated workforce, so higher education attainment has become an important component of economic success, particularly in higher wage nations that can compete less effectively in lower skilled, routinized work.......
For example, the United States leads Europe in terms of higher education attainment, with EU-15 (the broadened definition of the European Union) levels 77 percent of U.S. levels and EU-10 levels just 57 percent. But the report argues that in the last decade, the trends are in the opposite direction:
The report continues:
When it comes to trends, most other nations are making faster progress than the United States. Perhaps not surprisingly given its concerted push to be a more technologically-based economy China grew the fastest, with its share of researchers more than doubling. But other lagging nations also experienced rapid growth, with Mexico almost doubling (98 percent); Brazil up two-thirds, and India up 50 percent. A few nations such as South Korea and Singapore that had relatively high levels of researchers in 1999 made rapid progress, increasing by approximately 70 percent. Finally, Japan and Canada both outpaced the EU-15 and the United States.
Here in Minnesota, one manifestation of the competitiveness crisis is the fact that Minnesota's labor force growth is shrinking radically at the same time that the number of older Americans is increasing. From 1970 to 1980, Minnesota's labor force grew by about 450,000 according to the State Demographer and State Economist. (Click on link for slide show with charts). In the following three decades, net labor force growth was between 325,000 and 400,000. But now comes crunch time. But the State demographer and economist estimate that net labor force growth will fall to about 150,000 in the decade 2010-2020, and to about 100,000 in the following decade. During the same period, the population and percentage of the population over age 65 will grow significantly.
From 2006-2011, for example, the number of Minnesota workers turning 62 will jump from about 38,000 to 60,000. The number of people who will be doing productive labor will be falling over the next several decades as compared to the number of senior citizens. (This growth in the elderly is offset somewhat by the lower number of children). But still, the rising number of elderly will be a significant challenge will have more people to support than prior generations. To make this work, it is absolutely critical then that we invest in education that allows you, and your children to be productive.
In a prior post, I argued that our failure to maintain a strong education infrastructure endagers our competitiveness as a nation.
Over the last two decades, and especially during the last 8 years, there has been a fundamental change in our ability to sustain the vital educational infrastructure that made Minnesota a center of growth in technology and in the next decades, unless this is reversed, we will pay a heavy price.