This paragraph from a recent article in The Economist is rather illuminating:
“But many workers displaced by Chinese imports did not simply find another job. Mr Autor and his colleagues have shown that, at local level, employment falls at least one-for-one with jobs lost to trade, and that displaced workers are unlikely to move to seek new work. The lowest-skilled who do find new jobs tend to move to similar, and thus similarly vulnerable, employment. One reason for this immobility could be that the economy is now an unwelcoming place for jobseekers without a university degree. The housing collapse of the late 2000s, which left many Americans trapped in negative equity, may have made things worse. This new strain of research has lent support to the claim of Dani Rodrik, a globalisation sceptic, that “If you are of low skill, have little education, and are not very mobile, international trade has been bad news for you pretty much throughout your entire life.””
This is also true at the high-skill level; thousands of jobs in organic synthesis and chemical manufacturing, which are at the level of requiring a PhD (or higher) in chemistry, have been moved overseas, never to return. I am very curious to know what has happened to all the thousands of laid-off medicinal chemists over the last decade, and what will happen to the thousands of chemists soon to be laid off in the Dow-Dupont merger. Will they be able to find employment elsewhere in the chemical industry? I hope so. Even “jobseekers without a university degree” are not the only ones at risk for being in “vulnerable” employment in this day and age – a PhD can leave you in just as much risk as not having a degree at all, and organic chemistry is particularly bad as it does not leave you with many “transferable skills” (the buzzword of our times).