man in black suit leaning on white table

Why Your White-Collar Job Is In Jeopardy

Far be it from me — a guy who struggled to get through high school algebra — to suggest performance on standardized math tests is the barometer by which we should measure a nation’s educational system. Yet it is true that those who do well in math and science move into more white-collar jobs than those who don’t.

Our comparative global advantage in education is gone. U.S. students’ math skills have remained stagnant for decades, and as a nation we’ve fallen behind countries such as Poland and Ireland.

U.S. test scores now actually pull down the global average.

Ouch.

The top five countries in math performance by 15-year-olds as measured by the Program for International Student Assessment are all in Asia.

  1. Singapore
  2. Macao
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Taiwan
  5. Japan.

China isn’t scored because only four provinces reported data.

We’re not near the top five in science either. Those spots go to Singapore, Macao, Estonia, Japan and Finland.


Why This Matters

This should be especially worrying to white collar workers in the wake of a global pandemic that showed many of the jobs they do can be done from anywhere.

We’re already talked in this space about why working from home won’t last forever. Simply put, there’s no demonstrable benefit to the business, which is about making money more than it ever will be about making workers happy — especially as a global recession looms. Yet that doesn’t mean WFH wasn’t extremely instructive to business owners.

Largely ignored in the discussion over WFH vs. return-to-office is the fact that business owners have learned many high-paying jobs not only can be done from anywhere in the country, they can be done from anywhere in the world.

As a nation, we’ve already outsourced everything from manufacturing to call center jobs. If businesses can save money by sending high-paying white collar jobs overseas, why wouldn’t they do it? Add the fact that there’s the potential to send those jobs to nations with better performing education systems and you’re talking about more than just saving money; you’re starting to think about adding revenue.

Making this worse is a still hot labor market. Despite the Fed’s massive interest rate hikes aimed at cooling skyrocketing inflation, the American job market remains tough for employers. Simply put, there are too few workers for the jobs available. While that will not be the case for much longer, the companies for whom it changes more slowly have every incentive to look beyond our national borders to find better educated and highly skilled white collar workers to get the job done.

The experience in doing that will make it a more attractive option on the back end of the recession that’s coming. It isn’t hard to imagine American workers competing for jobs formerly found here with those around the globe — and losing out not only because domestic employees are more expensive but also not as good.

The global implications for this are massive and cannot be understated.

We’ve already divested ourselves as a nation of most manufacturing. While COVID-era supply chain issues will lead some companies to reduce international complications from their production lines, simply put, the stuff we need to make the things we value largely are found elsewhere in greater abundance and certainly for less money.

America is most definitely an economy run on the creation of ideas and intangible goods rather than products. If we can’t compete in that sector either, what is left to keep the growing population afloat?

Our national identity and sense of community has already been fractured by increasing isolation created by social media and algorithms that radicalize the populace into two increasingly hostile camps. The economic instability born from disappearing jobs can easily be seen as a portent of political and social instability.

While this all might not happen in the next year or two, it is certainly possible within the next decade.


Every global power in the history of the world has fallen, and most have fallen hard. It would be ignorant to think America is the exception.

Our nation could soon be devoid of an economic engine to support an increasingly complacent, entitled and divided population. The only question that remains is whether there’s enough will to change our stagnant education system to focus on creating workers who can restart that economic engine and be better than cheaper international alternatives.

Political divisiveness makes that highly unlikely.

America’s time as a global superpower is running out. Turmoil is coming, and there appears to be no realistic way to stop it.

John Agliata is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of communications experience. Reach him at johnagliata@gmail.com or (352) 226-5852.


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