The Opportunity in the New Economy


Many grapple with the skills gap and the “future of work" with no consistent national dialogue. We can change that.

The world is changing in profound ways. This change has brought with it growth, opportunity, and job creation, as well as new risks for workers and communities. For many of these risks, we are ill equipped to manage them. These are the risks that have fueled economic anxiety and job insecurity. It’s the challenge of our time.

We can jump to blame trade, automation and technological advances, or economic restructuring, but by doing so we fail to acknowledge the advantages these forces bring. We wouldn’t be focusing on the bigger picture. For example, studies show that 12.1 million manufacturing workers, due to advances in technology, can now produce at a level that previously would have required 20.9 million workers. That kind of productivity gain isn’t always easy to see at first. It requires a forest through the trees view.

And we can’t forget about trade. Trade has been criticized by some for moving jobs overseas in industry sectors that have proven to be vulnerable in global markets and competition. But at the same time, history proves to us that America is better off with more trade, not less. Over 95% of customers to American-produced goods are outside of our borders making America the world’s second-largest exporter of goods and services. As a result of trade, since 1980, our economy has gained about 54 million jobs.

So, what do we do?

Economic pessimism is complex. It is a result of the convergence of lots of trends, an accelerated pace of change over time, and the fact that the tools of action historically available to use to manage change are ill suited to manage the new risks all of us now face.

Would expanded government help our businesses and workers shelter from change? Should we just continue to grow at exponential rates and let the labor market sort itself out?

In The Opportunity Project: A New Social Contract for a Changing World, a white paper released just last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we present a third option. One where the business community plays a leadership role in the discussion.

Why? Because the American free enterprise system has been and will always be the single greatest creator of opportunity in this country. As we boldly enter the future, we need to make sure that we do so in a way that preserves the entrepreneurial spirit of America as a nation of risk takers, yet also equips businesses, workers, and communities with a new playbook for how to manage a constantly changing economy and world.

There has been much conversation around the new economy, but with this paper we begin a path to action.

The old playbook was built for a different era and economy. We want the new one to see business, workers, and government share in the opportunity, and the risk, of the new economy. For this to work, we must reconstitute and reaffirm our shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all the key stakeholders. Public and private sector solutions must play equal parts.

Not a small task, but this is what is required to fuel the growth we need for our economic success and to ensure that business, workers, and communities share in the benefits growth creates.

What comes next?

This paper is a first step in elevating the discussion and making sure the business community is at the table thinking through the challenge of our time and what we can do together to solve it. We plan to bring this conversation to main streets and cities across America and provide a place for thought leaders, businesses, and public policy leaders to come together to explore the new social contract in a changing world and the risk sharing and risk management products, services, and policies that will make it successful. We encourage you to join the conversation and help us preserve the American Dream for generations to come.

To get involved with the Opportunity Project, contact Jason A. Tyszko, executive director at the Chamber Foundation Center for Education and Workforce