The Salvation Army, says Major Rolf Guenther, was formed in the 1850s, when the Industrial Revolution made many people’s skills redundant and poverty spiked sharply.
Now, he said, he’s seeing a similar scenario, as the information revolution has made many workers’s skills redundant.
“During the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s, many people became impoverished and charities, including The Salvation Army, came into being,” he said. “Cottage industries by and large disappeared.”
These, he said, were replaced by machines, which could produce goods much faster and cheaper than the individual production before.
“In the 1980s another industrial revolution took place, the information technology one,” he said. “Many labour intensive jobs disappeared, replaced by computer-directed machines.”
When he entered the workforce in 1956, Guenther said, there was a job for anyone who wanted it and much work was done by hand.
“Now in many jobs there is a need for specialized computer skills,” he said. “Not everyone can learn these techniques. There is a need to constantly upgrade one’s skills.”
While there still exist some labour-intensive jobs, he said many of these are either seasonal or temporary and often do not pay well and not enough of them are available for everyone.
“The auto mechanic who learned his trade 30 or 40 years ago will not be able to repair a car today if he or she has not kept pace with computer technology,” Guenther said. “During the change in economic requirements, there are always people who cannot keep up with the requirements.”