The Pnyx: On job deserts

Joshua Schuetz
Staff Writer

Last week, I wrote about American wages and the need to establish a national wage floor. I’ve previously wrote about food deserts and solutions to the housing shortage.

Today, I’m going to look at a different issue: job deserts.

Job deserts, are essentially an area with a surplus of workers and a severe shortage of jobs. These areas are usually located either in rural communities or in impoverished and deindustrialized urban neighborhoods.

Most of these regions were once characterized by a large company or industry which completely dominated the area and its economy, and which provided the bulk of jobs to the community. Since then, the industry has left, and nothing has arrived to fill the gap. 

The results of such a situation are predictable: family breakdown, skyrocketing rates of drug and alcohol abuse, a growing informal economy whose often illicit work replaces that of the formal economy, and depopulation.

How does one deal with such a situation? There are a few ways. In cities, better public transportation can allow residents to commute more easily, thereby leading them to be able to find work in better areas. Encouraging entrepreneurship and business development in these areas is also a path forward.

In rural areas, there needs to be a strong focus on encouraging both people and industry to revitalize these towns. Incentivizing companies to set up roots in a declining area can lead to more small business popping up to meet the demands of a better off workforce. 

In general, areas that need to be caught up economically should be designated as zones for said catching up, and public policy should guide both government and private dollars towards improving these areas. That means working with the communities on the ground, and it also means making sure that the jobs available are within reach of locals. Otherwise, gentrification and displacement are likely to occur.

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