People need work in order to thrive economically and to feel good about themselves. Regions of the country where available work has been decimated — as in the coal mining states — have high rates of poverty and associated problems, like drug abuse. Regions of the world that never had much work to start with other than subsistence agriculture are at the root of destabilizing mass migrations.
My former home town of Rochester used to have lots of recognizable companies that provided good jobs with benefits that lifted a lot of people into the middle class, even if the worker had only a high school education: Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Xerox, Gannett, French’s Mustard. Guess who’s the largest employer now? The University of Rochester and the UofR Medical Center.
I just read an article in the London Guardian about Atlanta. Who do you think is the largest employer there? Coca Cola? CNN? Neither. The largest employer is Hartsfield-Jackson airport, which lists 63,000 people on its company roster.
The world of work has completely changed. When I was small, we thought of growing up to be a fireman or policeman or teacher — because that’s what we saw in our neighborhoods. At a point, aspirations shifted from roles to companies: a Kodak guy — usually it was a guy — could get his kids summer jobs there and then, often, a bid to join the company full time. Then, aspirations became linked to industries: finance, tech.
Now, people look for jobs where they can find them. What little kid grows up thinking “I want to be a Harsfield-Jackson airport worker”? But if you live in Atlanta, that’s probably a pretty good job to seek.