When thinking about interfirm competition for workers, It is important to examine the capital which each worker has available to him in order to perform a certain job or activity. Let’s say for example that all a worker needs is a computer, and with some technical training he or she will be able to work on a database remotely, managing the structure of file storage in the database. Now let’s say for example that for another job, in addition to the computer, the worker also needs to have the ability to move to a new location, far away, say New York City, or San Francisco. This is an additional burden on the worker, not just because of the cost of moving, but the ‘opportunity cost’ of the people, places, and things that he cares for that he may have to leave behind.
This is the nature of the job market today, it presupposes the ownership of certain types of capital. This has vast impacts and makes it prohibitively expensive for individuals of the lower class to move upwards within the class system. Take for example, a young capitalist, living with his parents in Connecticut, USA. He receives an offer for a job in New York City, but the move will cost him, and will bump up the costs on his entire family. It will also take some time before he starts to make money, causing some sort of ‘transition cost’ between his current work and the line of work which he plans to go into. These costs cause him to remain in his current state of affairs and also cost the City of New York a valuable asset in his field.
In some cases these transition costs can make it virtually impossible for new workers to gain entrance in to their chosen field, say after they graduate college, or even before. This I believe is due to the system of occupational licensing. There are certain standards one must meed in order to become something as simple as a hairdresser in the United States, this moves up the cost (once again we will use cost, as in the sense of something like a transition cost) of entering that profession. This also increases the cost of entering professions that are related to the profession of hairdresser (of which there are admittedly few).
The best example of this is a Professorship at a decent school. This ‘elite’ job is prohibitively difficult to attain for the sole purpose of education. The costs of any job related to being a professor are also incredibly high. For example a teaching assistant. Usually a Ph.D. student, teaching assistants must first have gotten high marks through college, pass a standardized test such as the GRE (for U.S. schools) and gain admittance into a school which offers Ph.D. graduate assistantships. The opportunity costs alone are sky high for this job. I think I have made my point here and I will move to another related job of a university professor. The administrative assistant. Let us say for example that a university department hires administrative assistants from within their students, and that this job pays the minimum wage. Students are going through college making the minimum wage which is not nearly enough to support themselves, especially not at, maybe, 15 hours per week. And these student workers have more education than over half the population, and are in fact located in a center for learning which refuses to accept that they actually know what they are doing.
In the next part of this series I will discuss privatizing education, and how this can work to eliminate these class mobility barriers which we have seen in this article.