Besides manufacturing, what other industry can actually help rebuild the middle class?
Focusing economic development on manufacturing doesn’t seem to be working for Michigan even if manufacturing is in the state’s DNA. The state needs a new industry that would help rebuild the middle-class workers. At present, data from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) showed that the in 2013, the average factory worker earned 7.7% less than the median wage for all occupations.
Manufacturing Workers Qualify For Food Stamps
According to NELP, inflation-adjusted wages of workers in the auto parts sector which comprises 75% of all automotive jobs fell 14% between 2003 and 2013. Half of all manufacturing workers in the country are earning very low wages which qualify them for public assistance. This means that their take-home pay is not enough so the government supports them with food stamps and free school lunches for their children, according to authors Sarah Leberstein and Catherine Ruckelshaus.
Average Production Wage Drops
And while Michigan is home to several manufacturing companies, majority of which are in the automotive industry, the average manufacturing production wage fell from $22.08 per hour in 2007 to $20.29 an hour in October. Michigan’s Bureau of Labor Market Information explains that this figure is not even adjusted for inflation. And with the current situation on global completion and the declining power of labor unions, that rate is expected to continue to drop.
Manufacturing Supports Middle-Class Lifestyle In The Past
For many years in the past, the manufacturing industry has built the middle class, not just in Michigan but in other states as well. Regardless if the company is manufacturing automobiles or just the small parts – bearings, bushings, bolts, rivets, nuts or metal shims, needed by the automakers, workers are paid higher wages than most jobs.
And during those years, Michigan benefited the most from manufacturing. A worker in Michigan with little education could easily land a job in an automaker’s plant with a wage enough to support a middle-class lifestyle.
Production Wages Still Declining
Those days were gone – for quite some time until recently when the manufacturing industry made a comeback which resulted in the resurgence of manufacturing jobs. But while jobs in the manufacturing sector opened up for many workers in Michigan, wages are declining. Despite the strong support of the government by way of subsidies, wage stagnation remains a stumbling block to the full recovery of the manufacturing sector.
Need For A Richer Mix Of Jobs
And even as the three auto giants – GM, Ford and Chrysler continue their operations in Michigan, the state needs a richer mix of jobs in:
- Financial activities
- Professional and business services
For Michigan to rebuild the middle class, it needs other industries to come in to help manufacturing boost the state’s economy and the living conditions of the workers.
One such industry is biotechnology manufacturing. In Maryland, entry of biotechnology companies to expand its manufacturing operations in the state generated more job opportunities for the people. AstraZeneca – a British drug maker is the latest company expanding its operations in Maryland.
Maryland: Hub For Life Science Companies
If manufacturing is the DNA of Michigan, Maryland enjoys the sterling reputation for being a hub for life science companies with interest to manufacture and distribute the drugs their research develops. This process requires federally-regulated facilities and a workforce with specialized training.
Higher Wages For Biotech Manufacturing Jobs
Biotech manufacturing jobs typically offer higher wages to workers because of the high qualifications and requirements. Since the nature of the types of jobs in biotechnology manufacturing requires some specialized skills, qualified workers receive higher wages compared to wages received by workers in other industries such as automotive manufacturing.
Biotechnology Manufacturing For Michigan
This is the type of jobs workers in Michigan should have. This is the kind of manufacturing industry Michigan should encourage to invest in facilities and operations in the state. If Michigan can become a hub for life science companies like Maryland, and with the auto manufacturing industry keeping its operations stable and steady, the state may succeed in rebuilding the middle class.
Is Michigan ready to welcome other manufacturing industries?
2 thoughts on “Michigan Needs Other Manufacturing Industries To Rebuild Middle Class”
It’s well known manufacturing has been declining for decades, but experts, including the authors of this blog and some across corporate America, have been saying that many factors signal that factory jobs that have gone to China and other parts of the world are returning. One other factor indeed, a big one that deserves extra attention is the decline of labor costs in the U.S..
Stand at the Woodward Avenue overpass above Interstate 75, and you’ll see the two faces of Detroit. On one side is beautiful Comerica Park, a symbol of downtown economic revival, where city residents and suburbanites alike pack in to watch professional baseball in a world-class venue. Then, across the expressway looms an empty 13-story building, with the word “ZOMBIELAND” scrawled across the top. That latter view pretty much sums up one of Detroit’s biggest problems today: the city’s lack of residents. It takes people to build a middle class and a functioning economy.
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