Every generation has a critique for the generations that came before them, and today’s young adults are no different. And it’s no wonder, with flaws in the education system, college debt and increasing difficulty entering the workforce, according to one economist.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth is the former chief economist of U.S. Department of Labor under President George W. Bush, and is co-author of the soon-to-be-published book, “Disinherited: How Washington is betraying America’s Young.”
Furchtgott-Roth — a member of the conservative think-tank the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research — told AM 770 KTTH’s David Boze that the book is nonpartisan, and refers to Washington DC, rather than the state of Washington.
She told Boze there are a variety of policies that have snowballed into the challenge young adults face as they enter the workforce.
“Politicians have been kicking the can down the road,” Furchtgott-Roth said. “They could have fixed entitlement programs, they could have done something about education, they could have done something about occupational licensing — instead they’re talking about raising the minimum wage to make it even harder for teens to get jobs.”
Furchtgott-Roth argued that poor policies are harming younger people entering the workforce. Policies that regulate the workforce and education for example.
“Meanwhile, young people suffer from a poor education because unqualified teachers are kept on. They graduate from college with debt averaging $27,000 … and meanwhile they can’t get into the labor force and they can’t get good jobs to pay off that debt,” she said.
Furchtgott-Roth said that in some states, regulations requiring people to get occupational licensing for jobs such as interior designer, tree trimmer or computer technician, stunt young workers’ progress into careers.
“We are also banning unpaid internships in for-profit companies,” she said. “So if you can’t get a job right away and you want to get an unpaid internship as a route to get a job, the labor department is saying ‘no.'”
Unpaid internships are better than receiving a university major, according to Furchtgott-Roth. Completing college is a nice thing to have, but employers value job experience and skills more.
“Studies show that employers in banking were more likely to take somebody who had been an intern in a bank than somebody with a major in finance. Someone in publishing is more likely to take somebody who interned at a newspaper than someone who has majored in English literature,” she said. “These internships are tremendously valuable.”
And while these challenges mount, Furchtgott-Roth said, national and local policies continue to make them worse. The author said that younger people do not fully understand the harm that policies that appear to help lower-income workers pose. She said that only 3 percent of Americans earn minimum wage, and half of those people are between ages 16-24.
It’s a topic that the Seattle area knows well.
“A minimum wage of $15 an hour means that no teen in Seattle is going to be able to get an entry-level job,” Furchtgott-Roth said. “The $7.25 minimum wage already keeps out a lot of people. The African American teen unemployment rate is about 30 percent, teen unemployment rates is about 19 percent. So already people are being priced out of the market; $15 an hour is going to price a lot more people out of the market, too.”