Monday, April 09, 2007

Global Labour Shortage?

I had expected a global labour shortage to happen some time in the future, where given the declining birthrate in the developed world, and China's "Stop at one" policy and the equivalent birth control policies in India will eventually bite back. I foresee a future where the young person, especially young ladies (due to sexist parents aborting female foetuses), will be in great demand. This trend will accelerate since we will depend on an ever declining pool of young ladies to bear the next generation, even as the options in life for young people expand spectacularly as the baby boomer generation starts to retire and die.

I foresee this to happen in about ten to twenty years. This article suggest that it could be much sooner, like now.

At first, it was just a trickle. Indian call center workers become serial job hoppers, boosting their salaries 20% with every new position. Factory workers in Vietnam leave for the holidays and don't return. Computer programmers in Bulgaria don't bother to answer the want ads of a Los Angeles movie studio. But today, anecdotes of a global labor crunch have turned into a flood. Last week, staffing agency Manpower Inc. released the results of a survey of nearly 37,000 employers in 27 countries. It turns out that more than four out of 10 employers around the world are having trouble hiring the right kind of staff for the right kind of money. And the problem is getting worse.


It is no surprise that sooner or later, the direction of flow due to globalisation may slow, or even reverse. But it seems to be happening sooner than anybody is expecting it. All we need is the US dollar to depreciate a little bit more against the yuan and the rupee, and the cycle is complete.

What this means is that, if you are very young today, a very bright future may await you. But there is a dark side to it: the voting population of the future will be predominantly old people, and populist democracies may yield to the demands of the older electorates and enforce some nasty government policies on young people, like say, a "youth tax", which is paid only by people between 20 and 40.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A minister's job as compared to a CEO: Part 1

The Minister's job is a lot like that of a CEO, the public face of the company. If anybody knows the name of just one employee of any given company he or she doesnt know personally, chances are, that person is the CEO. Besides an outstanding track record to bring credibility, the two most requirements of a good CEO ought to be

1) excellent communicator

The CEO being the public face of the company must project the right image. Mr Tan Kin Lian, former CEO of NTUC Income, may not look like the usual CEO, but yet his earnest image is likely to boost the image of the company for the everyman buying life insurance. OTOH, most people think Oracle's Larry Ellison is a corporate shark, but that is okay, because the people who can afford buy Oracle products wants to be corporate sharks themselves.

Beyond a two dimensional image, the CEO must connect with the customers. The CEO has a powerful PR budget to brainwash the customers with his lofty visions, but even then, sometimes, the customers may not bite. The CEO must connect to the masses to sense a change in tide. Just as Bill Gates sensed risk in not risking everything in 1995 to refocus on the internet, the CEO must know what is going on at the grassroots.

2) excellent talent manager

If the CEO can identify and convince the right talents to the appropriate jobs, then the only thing left for him to do is to get out of their way. In order to keep talents motivated, the CEO must articulate lofty visions.

As to actual capability in the day to day running, it is really not that essential, although it can be useful. Does anybody think Arnold Schwarzenegger could acquire the capability to manage the 1.6 trillion USD Californian economy overnight after a life time of pumping iron and taking roles in movies that involves little more than spouting one-liners like "I'll be back" in movies? But he seems to be doing fine nevertheless because he is an excellent communicator and has the right advisers. In fact, compared to GWB who had a spotty track record even as Texas governor, The fact that Arnie ought to be the classic all brawns and no brain beefcake, and yet nobody associates him with the word "dumb" compared to Bush shows how well he managed his image.

All that said, CEO pay is going all wacko these days. Carly Fiorina may be just a scapegoat for all the HP woes, but few would think she did a super outstanding job, and yet her severance package can be as high 42 million USD, probably because she is now unemployable in the same capacity. Off hand, I can name three people who earned a billion USD just be being an employee: Sandy Weill, former CEO of Citigroup, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft and Dr Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

If one can be paid millions for failing, how can we begrudge our ministers 2 million?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

When will Singapore have bike lanes?

Until the million dollar ministers find the talents to build bike lanes in Singapore, a feature so common in so many benchmark big cities, I can only believe that the only good in paying them millions is to appease their greed.