Reich Focuses on Wage Inequality

Secretary of Labor Links Technology With Employment Prospects

Wage inequality among American workers will continue growing unless the public and private sectors develop a plan to adapt to an increasingly technological world, U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich said Wednesday night at Radcliffe College.

Reich's lecture, delivered to an audience of about 400 at Agassiz Theater, was the keynote address at a Radcliffe Public policy Institute conference which ends today.

The Institute's 40-member panal includes Congressional representatives, Fortune 500 executives, journalists and academic experts. Panel members will hold hearings across the country and then publish its reccommendations next summer.

In her introductory address, Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson said the two-day conference, entitled "Redefining the Economy, the Work-place and the Family," represents the Institute's first major public policy initiative since its inceptions in 1993.

This is a historic occasion for Radcliffe and one that will undoubtedly have far-reaching effects in national policy development," Wilson said.


The report will offer ideas for improving the employment prospects of poorly educated and technologically--illiterate workers, Reich said.

"Technology is your friend if you have the right education and skills to utilize it," he said. "Otherwise you are replaced by it."

Labor Department statistics show that the average wages of college graduates are 80 percent higher than workers with only a high school diploma. This "wage gap" has doubled since 1978, Reich said.

Increased international trade and the proliferation of computers has caused stagnating wages for workers who lack computer and technological skills, according to Reich.

An effective plan for closing the wage gap would coordinate efforts between workers, schools and businesses,according to Reich, who was Pforzheimerdistinguished Lecturer in Public Policy at theKennedy School before being appointed Secretary ofLabor in 1993.

Reich suggested that schools "form tight linkswith the business community that identify thefoundation stones [students] need to learn intechnological area."

The secretary of labor praised pilot programsin Detroit and Los Angeles where businesses haveagreed to provide apprenticeships to localenrolled in vocational classes during the day.

"It's important that young people have theopportunity for supervision, to see therelationship between what they're learning in theclass-room and the world of work," he said.

Reich pitched several other initiatives, suchas an expansion of child care, a tax deduction ofup to $10,000 for individuals enrolled in jobtraining courses and a 90-cent increase of theminimum wage--which he said is at a 40-year lowwhen adjusted for inflation.

He also suggested creating computerizedemployment databases to give job-seekers easyaccess to information about potential openings,the skills needed to secure those positions andlists of schools offering relevant vocationalcourses.

"We've got to think about a different kind ofinfrastructure that families need to bridge thisjourney from the old economy to the new economy,"he said.

Negative Externalities'

The nation's widening wage gap has causedfeelings of insecurity which are manifested in"angry regrains against immigrants, welfaremothers, affirmative action, governmentbureaucrats and foreign traitors."

"It's a question of efficiency and socialjustice," Reich told The Crimson. "We simplycannot ignore the negative externalities inherentin a society where the elite are quite wealthy andthe common wage-earner barely survives.

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