As my memory of my trip to India begins to fade, I was reminded of the essence of the experience when I read the report by Rand titled “Labor and Population” (www.rand.org), in which the authors describe the forces that will shape work in the United States in the next 10 to 15 years. Those factors are demographic trends, technological advances and economic globalization.
India has a young, growing population, an emerging mid-class, a rapidly evolving R&D capability and an economy expanding at over 10% annually. A recent small business roundtable discussion pointed out that many in India are working to feed their families and meet their basic needs while we busy ourselves figuring out how to pay for the 3,000 sq. ft. house in the suburbs with the three-car garage. The primary theme that came out of our discussion was that we are “one world,” and if we need to lower our standard of living so that they can raise theirs, then so be it. Many even felt that as their standard of living increases it will create more opportunities for everyone.
The debate goes on… do we live in a world of scarcity or in a world of abundance? My sense is that the answer is both. The story about the drought-stricken rural farmer in India who moves into the city (with its rapidly growing middle class) to feed his family with a $40-per-month job sweeping streets illustrates that we live in a world of both scarcity and abundance depending upon where you are (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/). I suspect we are headed towards a similar situation in this country as our economy becomes more global. Some regions will thrive and prosper and others will struggle.
What will make the difference among those regions that flourish and those that struggle? How can we as economic development practitioners ensure that our regions experience abundance? The Rand Study (www.rand.org) would say that it will have to do with the skills and knowledge that our workers possess. The World Knowledge Competitive Index (www.higginsassociates.com) would say that it is about our human capital, our financial capital and our knowledge capital.