back to article How tech firms can drive growth without making inequality worse

For many cities, tech hubs have been a key to jump starting economic growth in the wake of the global financial crisis. In an era of uncertainty, tech-sector growth is proving to be a driving force for nations attempting to reach into the “next economy”. In the UK, for instance, the sector is – optimistically – predicted to …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    So let's see if I can paraphrase

    Relying on "trickle down" is bu***hit

    Teaching the working classes to code is a good idea.

    People quite like working in places where you can walk to work and at least some basic shops without getting a car every five minutes.

    I think many people will go along with all of that.

    Now let's see it get implemented.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: So let's see if I can paraphrase

      "People quite like working in places where you can walk to work and at least some basic shops without getting a car every five minutes."

      And the town planners over the last 6 decades or so have done more than anyone to prevent that. The brownfield site they've allocated to housing previously provided employment to those living in the housing around it. Now those living in both lots of housing are going to have to travel some distance to work because we've got to have houses and employment in different zones, preferably as far apart as possible. They shouldn't publish a report, they should publish an apology.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So let's see if I can paraphrase

        People quite like working in places where you can walk to work and at least some basic shops without getting a car every five minutes.

        An interesting idea, but unless you live somewhere with a fairly large range of potential employers within working distance, you'll have to move when you change jobs in order to continue walking to work. For some that'll be just dandy. For me, I'll stick living where I do, my children having a stable education, and commute for the various jobs that my career gets me into.

        I might add that the sort of urban hipster utopia that is described is my vision of hell.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "And the town planners,," "..have done more than anyone to prevent that. "

        Indeed.

        It's weird.

        As a student I shared a house with a couple of these.

        Seemed quite normal.

        I suspected some kind of post graduation brain operation that would term them into monsters.

  2. DougS Silver badge

    Nice idea to upskill the local residents

    Unfortunately the tech companies would rather hire Indian or Chinese coders for a fraction of the price.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Nice idea to upskill the local residents

      And you can't upskill everybody. If you upskill the local workforce and they all work in tech jobs, who is going to stock shelves or do your dry cleaning? Massages? Wait tables in restaurants? Etc.

      These people are needed and are often overlooked, especially when it comes to housing. It often means that they can't even live in the towns where they work and have long commutes.

      That said, I work in tech, but we live in a small town and I commute a couple of towns over to another small town. I wouldn't want to work in a large town or city.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tech doesn't pay *that• well..

    Tech pays ok, but not great.

    Also what is it with people thinking IT is so easy that you can learn it on a two week course? Why not teach havenots to be doctors or Professors of Economics? Those jobs have shortages and pay ok too...

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Tech doesn't pay *that• well..

      The problem is the startup culture in SF. There you often work for little pay, but get a part of the business when it goes public or is bought. That leads to a lot of suddenly rich people.

      Silicon Valley also seems to pay way above average. This is where the discrepancies come in. In "normal" towns, you probably get a "normal" salary for working in tech.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Tech doesn't pay *that• well..

      With a doctor if you get it wrong someone dies.

      With professors of Economics nobody understands what they're saying anyway so that must mean they're right.

      With IT, just keep bashing at the keyboard. If you get it wrong, it goes wrong and then, tsk, computers, eh?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Tech doesn't pay *that• well..

        If we get it wrong, we have 15 minutes to get it right, otherwise it costs the customer tens thousands of Euros in wastage and we would be liable for compensation...

        If you are writing medical software and you get it wrong, someone could die.

        It isn't so black and white.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Tech doesn't pay *that• well..

          Indeed, but we are talking about "what is it with people thinking IT is so easy", not what you and I know.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    In other news, heads of unicorn app/web companies are being offended by the distressing sight of the homeless.

    Donating to homeless shelters or soup kitchens never occurred to them.

    Maybe all these people are disruptedly innovated taxi drivers and therefore deserve their hate. Who knows?

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/17/san-francisco-tech-open-letter-i-dont-want-to-see-homeless-riff-raff

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please, what's the difference with what happend with the banking/financial/media sector?

    It looks to me all that happened before in the banking/financial/marketing/media sectors. Lots of people paid a lot who in turn led to high prices for houses and offices. What's the problem now? That tech people also now earns money too instead of being serfs of the money/media-shifting guys and gals?

    It's not that I like the situation, I just find funny it's an issue only if it's tech people - otherwise it's a very welcome inevitable situation. Looks like what happend when the "bourgeoisie" started to challenge the status of the "nobles", becoming as much as rich, if not more.

    Anyway, in these sectors you can't really try to train local people. You have to find the best ones around, and put them to work together. I've see already miserable failures in attempts to use high-tech to improve poorer areas. Those areas aren't appealing to the bright ones (above average criminality, poor schools, health/transportation/etc. services, less appealing houses and neighboourhood...), and no matter how much you train the "locals", no enough may reach the required high standards and skills. That's why high-tech flourish in appealing places.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please, what's the difference with what happend with the banking/financial/media sector?

      That's why high-tech flourish in appealing places.

      Have you ever been to Shoreditch? It's a classic urban shithole, and what's more, if you're after poor people to train, there's Tower Hamlets and Hackney a stone's throw away.

      Personally I'd put guards around the M25 to stop any escapees, and invite the Luftwaffe back to do the job properly.

  6. Schlimnitz

    Sigh...

    Bring back Tim Worstall.

    1. Turtle

      @schlimnitz: Exactly What I Thought.

      This was exactly the thought that came to my mind: Instead of Worstall, we get this.

      While there might well be people who, having read the article, feel that they have gained some insight or deeper understanding from it, I am not, unfortunately, one of them. I thought it was quite shallow.

  7. readman

    As usual the people close to the tech business have the idea that if everyone learned to code they would all make good money. The number of jobs in a typical community that could employ a coder are a very small percent of the working population. I was employed as a software engineer at a large aerospace company for many years and I can tell you that the majority of jobs were in manufacturing, not engineering. The actual of number of "coders" was an even smaller fraction of all engineers.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Stop

      And the author ignores the facts that A) if everyone learned how to code, then the wages for developers would crash and B) there are a lot of people (poor and otherwise) out there who aren't suited to software development or electrical engineering

  8. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    There is no skills shortage

    There's just a shortage of companies willing to pay a living wage.

    1. Turtle

      @Trevor_Pott Re: There is no skills shortage

      "There's just a shortage of companies willing to pay a living wage."

      Apparently you didn't read the article, which was actually about the fact that the tech sector pays so well, that other, non-tech-sector workers who formerly earned a living wage, now, while earning the same pay, now have a "gonna-have-to-start-living-in-a-refrigerator-or-other-large-appliance-carton" wage. Because property values are skyrocketing, with all the typical after effects.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: @Trevor_Pott There is no skills shortage

        I read the article. I also read the bit where apparently we're supposed to 'train up the proles' because 'there's a perpetual skills shortage in tech'. Both ideas are bullshit.

        First, there is no skill shortage in tech. There's just a lack of companies willing to actually pay a living wage. They whine and cry and carry on about how expensive nerds are and could they please, please, please import some cheap labour.

        Secondly, if you train up the proles to fill this non-existent skills shortage what you're going to do is create massive downwards wage pressure on a sector that already isn't paying well enough. It sucks that everyone else has shit or no jobs, but flooding them all into tech is just going to destroy the economic benefits of tech, it isn't going to help the downtrodden at all.

        This creates another problem: training people to do tech is expensive and time consuming. It has a cost. If you drive the wages for tech workers into the ground then who is going to want to spend their own money on this?

        That means that people choosing tech as a career because it is what they love (and hence are willing to pay for the education themselves) basically evaporate. In relatively short order you can only get bodies into the now-prole-class-wages tech sector by spending muchos government wonga on training up people from other failed sectors, and that stops delivering a return on investment fairly quickly.

        Look, I am not remotely against spending money training the proles up so that they can (hopefully) get better jobs. I just don't believe tech is the sector to target. Wage pressures in tech are already downwards and both political and economic forces are aligned to increase that downward pressure. Worse, tech doesn't tend to benefit the actual economy all that much, unless you happen to be the US of A.

        No, if you want to train up the proles and jumpstart the economy Look for post-tech sectors. Specifically I am thinking here nanotechnology, genetics, applied biology and robotics. These fields need massive amounts of technicians and there are never enough available.

        What's more, the UK, Canada or any non-US location has a very real shot at creating centers of excellence. If we start now, we could end up with a trained workforce large enough and with an early enough head start on what promise to be the next economic sectors driving the global economy that the Americans don't get to sit on the top of the mountain.

        Tech is dead. We are well down the path towards industrializing code development, automating systems administration and otherwise reducing the need for bodies, even as we are churning more of them out of educational facilities than are needed. Don't doom the proles to spend the rest of their careers in another mediocre, failed/failing sector. Give them a real chance by pointing them in the direction of the next big thing.

  9. Colin Tree

    gone fishing

    It's what they want to do down under. All kids from K to 12 will learn coding.

    So in a dozen years everyone entering the workforce will be able to code.

    Ok, they won't all be able to code, but they will understand the processes

    and have learned to think and plan in an organised, programming type way.

    Now take a fitter and turner, give him a robot and some coding skills,

    he's a practical kinda guy, he'll get it,

    now he doesn't get his hands dirty and his fecking outsized robot

    will do all the work and he can go fishing more often.

    So do you call that the tech company or a metal workshop.

    There's the problem, give the tech to people who know how to do things.

    We need to modernise our manufacturing, make it more efficient, more adaptable

    cut out the middle man, piss off the retail, sell direct using the internet.

    Respond immediately to what the client wants,

    be able to talk knowledgeably with the client.

    My place of work is 5 meters from my back door.

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