Manufacturing industry jobs have been declining for the past 50 years, as reported by the World Economic Forum. The loss of employment has been more damaging for lesser-educated Blacks than Whites. Legislation following the 1960s race riots has improved education opportunities for Blacks relative to Whites, but there continue to be gaps for them in employment and wages. In addition, inner cities in the U.S. lost good-paying employment opportunities as manufacturing companies abandoned factories, searching for cheap labor in third-world countries.
"Botched policy responses to globalization have decimated manufacturing employment with often overlooked costs for Black, Brown, and other workers of color." - Valerie Wilson, coauthor of the report and director of EPI's Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.
The Economic Policy Institute report, coauthored by Wilson, looked at the impact of globalization on U.S. manufacturing jobs. The data from 1998-2020 showed a 30.4% loss in manufacturing jobs for Black Americans resulting in no longer having access to 646,500 good-paying jobs. The opportunities shifted to lower pay with fewer benefits for service industry work, causing an average loss of $5,000 in annual income. During this time frame, there was an additional reduction in the availability of work at companies with a union workforce.
The mounting supply chain issues caused partly by the global COVID-19 pandemic have brought manufacturers to the conclusion that they need to reshore at least part of their manufacturing operations to the U.S. One prediction is that this will result in 350,000 new jobs. Unfortunately, this comes simultaneously with a projected employment gap of 2.1 million positions that will be unfilled in the industry by 2030, meaning that the real gap will be closer to 2.5 million jobs.
The Century Foundation has partnered with the Urban Manufacturing Alliance, manufacturing experts, and a cohort of workforce leaders to develop seven lessons that the manufacturing sector can use to create a just and inclusive work environment, including:
1. A willingness to address the challenges of building a more inclusive economy.
2. An understanding that manufacturing industry and community coordination is more critical post-pandemic.
3. The need to help the most vulnerable members of our population cope with negative economic impact.
4. Develop steps to strengthen and diversify their programs.
5. Work to identify employers with safe working conditions and good pay.
6. Provide organizational learning that best harnesses diversity as part of a sustainable manufacturing strategy.
7. The necessity to change the negative perceptions of the manufacturing industry.
We have a responsibility as manufacturing leaders to develop opportunities that undo some of the past damage done to BIPOC groups as companies chased cheaper labor around the globe. While the significant harm cannot be undone, we can learn from our mistakes and embrace the opportunities to develop a just and inclusive future for our critical industry.
As an individual that spent nearly 30 years in manufacturing, it always confounded me that people would choose lesser-paying jobs in a service industry that often requires employees to work holidays, evenings, and weekends. However, in the case of job losses for the Black community, it has not been a shift made by choice. The manufacturing industry has a responsibility to reverse the negative impact that has occurred as they chased lower labor around the globe through a just and inclusive employment strategy.
Individuals interested in increasing their impact to create a just and inclusive environment at the manufacturing plant level can learn more by reading Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 4.0: A toolkit for leaders to accelerate social progress in the future of work. We can make an impact at each manufacturing location that, while small individually, can make a significant collective contribution if each of us embraces this opportunity.
I am grateful to organizations like the Century Foundation and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance for working to develop racial equality initiatives. Their work can guide us in creating a better future for the manufacturing industry as a whole, but more importantly for each individual or family positively impacted by this noble purpose.
Next week's blog will focus on making the manufacturing industry more attractive to potential Hispanic employees. Establishing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization is crucial to the humanist manufacturing framework.
To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.
Connect with me on LinkedIn
Contact me if you need help with the manufacturing support services of consulting, coaching, Fractional Chief Sustainability Officer, or training/reskilling at 734-664-9076.
You can sign up for my newsletter or send me an email at: Contact Me
Cover Image Credit: RODNAE Productions on Pexels