In North America, too many people seem to be overeducated and underemployed. According to a CBC News article, one in three people under 30 are underemployed in Canada, for example. The common complaint seems to be either that too many people have university education or that too many people have the wrong education. For example, critics in David Harriman’s article published in schoolmoney.org argue that programs in science, technology, mathematics and engineering should be encouraged amongst the youth because education in liberal arts do not pay very much and also lead to underemployment. Basically, the message is to push the youth in the direction of the current market trend that offers them better jobs. Is the solution this simple, though? Can people be just driven in the direction the market is going? Furthermore, should the market dictate what careers people choose?
It seems that economists and business leaders leave out a huge factor in their drive of the market: human personality. In the past few decades the trends seem to drive people in the direction of highly technological and highly competitive, busy environments to work in. The question is: Do people want to exist in such environments? Think of endless rows of cubicles where people are glued to their phones and computer screens, working against strict deadlines for the company to remain competitive in a fast-paced world. Or, think of scientists in a lab developing a new drug, working 14 hours a day to make sure that another company does not beat them to the solution for the development of an ideal drug for a disease. How about a group of engineers on the phone, dealing with delays, miscalculated drawing plans and a construction company manager breathing down on their neck to pressure the engineers to get going because “time is money”? How many young people would like to be educated to be part of this pressure cooker of a fast-paced world?
The problem is that young people do not necessarily find the careers the market trends dictate desirable. Their personalities may clash with this ideology and the lifestyle it offers. For example, Dan Buettner, in Psychology Today, reports that up to 50% of the population may be introverts in any era. According to him, introverts do not enjoy active, fast-paced environments. Instead, they prefer to work alone or in smaller groups. Introverts thrive in fields, such as writing, art and science. Given this description, it is no small wonder that people are still getting educated in liberal arts studies and similar fields and refuse to follow the market trend. The market trend simply does not agree with who they are as people.
Should the market dictate career choices then? Given the fact that economic and market trends often do not agree with people’s personalities and general lifestyle requirements, market trends may actually do more harm than good when trying to dictate trends. Mel Schwartz argues in Psychology Today that more than twenty percent of Americans go through clinical depression at some point during their lives. He points to the fast-paced, neurotic, aimless living, as a major contributor. It can be argued that economic and business market trends that move with lightening speed, constantly shifting and pressuring people into jobs that do not agree with their basic personalities cannot be healthy. Therefore, these market trends should not dictate people’s careers. Modern societies should put people’s health and general well-being before economic and business interests.
Unfortunately, as it stands today, people have a choice to make. They can either follow their dreams, based on their talents and personalities and paid little or, sacrifice their health and well-being to pressure themselves to follow economic and market trends to make a comfortable, decent living. It seems that following their dreams and sidestepping the lure of wealth created in undesirable environments is the reason that people still pursue the so-called “useless degrees” and are underemployed in most modern societies. Still, this inconvenient effect will be beneficial in the long run because it will force economists and business leaders to rethink their strategies. If the well-educated would rather become starving artists than join the high pressure-cooker world, the economists and business leaders will eventually be forced to adapt to people’s needs.