Middle Class On the Move
American workers relocate abroad.
There's an upside to being in "advanced middle age" and having been raised in a small town that was always a few years behind the city, socially and economically. I can actually remember when the term "working class" wasn't just Marxist terminology. I can remember when blue-collar workers actually wore shirts with blue collars and white-collar workers wore shirts with white collars. I can remember when a plumber would strive to get his kid into college so he could get a "good job" that didn't involve manual labor; one that paid a good salary too.
I also remember the transition. The dramatic economic growth of the 1950's changed everything. Newspapers told us plumbers were making as much or more than many so-called "professionals". They started showing up at our middle-class homes with something other than a blue collar. Their kids routinely took their seats in college freshman classes. Good lord, plumbers even started showing up on the golf course, the former bastion of the upper class!
It was the arrival of the Great American Middle Class. We stopped using "working class" in normal conversation. The stigma of manual labor faded. It was hailed as a great victory for the free enterprise system and it was. The transition was impressive.
Now I watch us as we pass through the same transition in reverse.
I've spent almost the entirety of my last 41 years working on a variety of assignments outside the United States. I was part of the globalization process before anyone called it "globalization." I remember when people would have laughed if you called Thailand an "emerging market." The changes I have seen are absolutely stunning.
This morning, I watched the video at The Wall Street Journal and Marketwatch on the new Bollywood. I like the old Bollywood, but that's another story. It was just one of many reminders that there are hundreds of millions of people moving from the working class to the middle class once again, but not in the old economies of North America and Europe.
We are indeed experiencing the arrival of a global community, not by design, but as the result of the natural course of human events. This transition is huge and it will take years before we fully recognize and appreciate it; hindsight is always clearer than foresight. Yet I can tell you from decades of direct professional and personal experience that it's well underway. The road ahead will have its serious bumps, but the road is there and we're traveling on it. I'm good with that.
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