The Future of the Workforce: What Leaders Should Expect

By Nia Robinson

At seventeen years old when someone asks me what I want my future to entail, I can easily answer the question. “Well first I will get my Ph.D. in Economics, then I will be an Economics Professor at some Ivy League, then I will get with the right people and become a council member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council, and then I will run for President of the United States in 2054.” Pretty straightforward right? Maybe not, but the even stranger thing is that many of my peers have extreme plans for their future too. Their ideas range from working for Google as their CEO, or working with the ACLU for the next big case, and even working on becoming the next Mozart or Kanye West. So, why is it so much easier for people of my age to plan out our future? Because every day we see notifications and posts in the media that spur our interests about what our future could be like. But the reality is, most of the jobs that the future leaders of America might think they want now, will not even be available in that form when we go into the workforce. Even more so, most of the jobs that my peers and I probably will have, are not even created yet. With rapid urbanization spreading across the globe and the future technology breakthrough, what will the job market be like by 2050? Will I even be able to even run for President anymore? Or will America assign that job to some genius, creative robot?

Seems absurd but every day companies are working on improving our infrastructure, machines, and technology and jobs are adapting. Leaders right now need to understand that the future of work will be “the survival of the adaptable.” That is why one of the most important things leaders need to anticipate about the future is the importance of open mindedness. No doubt, that is important now, but in the future this trait will not only help leaders deal with the inevitable changes that will occur in the structure of the workforce, it will also help leaders deal with ways to move their business and company with the tide of the change.

Another thing leaders need to anticipate about the future is the importance of embracing social responsibility. Our world is become ever increasingly globalized and there will be less and less respect for businesses that do not address or talk about what is going on in the country and for the ones who insensitively do so. Just like it is important for America to unite, it is incredibly important for leaders to be able to unite their employees. The social climate is not going to change soon. In fact, there will always be problems, in the past, in the present, and to the future. Yet in our future, with social media becoming a larger and larger platform, the social tensions in our world will be more public and cause more doubt. Leaders need to anticipate the strength of social responsibility in the workforce so they can lead their business to be respectful and admirable to their community and to the people in their country.

As I focus on my future, I hope to be a part of what this world looks like by looking at the long-term implications of decisions I make to better my community. By embedding social responsibility into the workforce to reshape the business climate, I would like to foster results in my community that benefit not one person, but the public good. Future leaders should establish practices wherever they go that focus on the greater social responsibility, so that they can build an environment, team, and community that they are proud the world can see.

Migrants and the Eurozone

By Miro Ehrfeld

           Political crisis in Syria and other war stricken areas have led to an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers throughout Europe within the last two months. With hundreds of thousands of migrants flooding through the European border, leaders are torn between stability and sympathy. The push toward the accommodation of refugees, by Germany especially, has edged the European economy into ever more unstable conditions. Having not fully recuperated from earlier issues in Spain and Greece, the fate of the Euro is now more unclear than ever.

As migrants slowly make their way to Germany through Croatia and Hungary, Germany is frantically trying to gage how to best receive thousands of migrants into a country with 80.6 million inhabitants. Furthermore, Germany already has an existing unemployment rate valued at 4.7% as of April 2015. With the Euro to Dollar ratio down forty cents from 2014 economists are scratching their heads as to how Europe will deal with the issue. The skill level demanded of the German workforce is very high which will make it difficult for migrants to secure well paying jobs. Fortunately, Germany provides a socialized education system that will benefit asylum seekers greatly.

When taken in context, this population increase could be beneficial to the German economy in the longterm. The reproduction rate of Germany today is 1.4 children per family. This migration counteracts the decreasing trend. Another indication of optimism in the Euro's future can be seen in the mass purchasing of depreciated Euros in anticipation of its inevitable rise. Although the economic situation appears to be perilous,  hopefully Europe will rise to the challenge both socially and economically.

 

Chipotle's Imminent Recovery

    By Austin O'Toole

    For the past couple of months, people have been telling me that I’ve been risking my precious life by eating at Chipotle.  The company has been plagued by a series of unfortunate events, in which an E. Coli outbreak was linked to multiple outlets across the country.  This event has resulted in a precipitous 30% decline in sales, which is practically unheard of.  While ”worry wart investors” have been scrambling to divest their money, I’ve been doing the exact opposite for three main reasons.

    Let’s get real; according to the CDC, 52 people were infected by the E. Coli virus by Chipotle chains across the country.  Without any context, this may seem like a huge number; however, considering that Chipotle restaurants serve around 750,000 people a day, this value becomes miniscule.  In fact, it’s so miniscule that if you took those 52 people and assumed that all of them were infected on the same day, your odds of being infected would only be about 0.0069%.  You’re 4 times more likely to die by choking on your Chipotle.  Not only that, but also, take into account that Chipotle is worth $200 million.  They clearly have enough resources to manage and resolve the problem. Thus far, they have dealt with the issue appropriately by implementing food safety standards and closing locations when they are affected, ensuring that consumers do not contract the virus.  

    Second, Chipotle’s strong reputation offers a large barrier to entry.  More often than not, a majority of millennials have flocked to this chain since it offers a healthier option to fast-food using fresh ingredients, making it more difficult for competition to succeed.  The most successful Mexican fast-food chains are Taco Bell and Qdoba.  With that being said, Taco Bell is designed for the more price-conscientious consumer, leaving Qdoba.  Although this Chipotle “catastrophe” was the optimal time for Qdoba to take a large percentage of Chipotle’s market share, they were unable to succeed.  Qdoba’s parent company, Jack in the Box, has found moderate success in recent months, making those “worry wart investors” turn to them as an alternative investment; however, looking solely at Qdoba, according to an article published by Time Magazine, Qdoba experienced an outbreak of Typhoid fever earlier in August of 2015, showing how their food is not any “safer” than Chipotle’s.

    This last point is for all of the Calculus nerds out there.  If you look at Chipotle’s stock over the past three to six months, you’ll notice a general parabolic trend, similar to that of f(x)=-x2. Now, although that it may appear that the value of each share is decreasing, one would notice by taking the second derivative that the rate at which it’s decreasing is decreasing.  In simpler terms, theoretically, this means that the stock price is starting to stabilize and should begin to increase once again, assuming Chipotle does not experience additional bad luck.  

    Obviously, this is all speculation; however, I’m almost positive that Chipotle’s stock will rise from the dead.  It’s reputation among millennials is still favorable, and Chipotle’s competition was unable to take a large percentage of the market. This suggests that many of Chipotle’s customers were simply waiting for the “storm to pass” and will return to their favorite burrito joint in the upcoming months.

 

Private Equity Bubble

By Austin O'Toole

In an attempt to gain more revenue and outperform the markets, more high-net-worth individuals and institutions are turning to private equity as an alternative investment.  At a glance, this alternative appears to be in an investor’s best interest.  Over the past five years, private equity funds have beaten the S&P 500 and Nasdaq by an average of about 7.33%.  Not only that, but if you look at 2014 alone, according to Bain Capital, exit buyouts were at an all time high of about $450 billion. Also, fundraising for firms such as Preqin hit $500 billion, and AUM hit an all time high of about $3 trillion. Clearly, these returns have provoked an interest in many investors; however, this all may be coming to an end as asset valuations in many sectors have become increasingly overvalued.

As displayed in the graph below, the assets in private equity firms have grown exponentially since 2000; though, many firms are beginning to realize that their valuations are in fact incorrect. Companies, such as Fidelity, have reevaluated their investments and have decreased valuations by as much as 25%. According to Renaissance Capital, 60% of IPOs that went public in 2015 are now trading below their IPO price.  Not only that, but also IPO returns were down 4% from their IPO price in the third quarter, which was the only negative quarter since 2011.  These “unicorn valuations” have created an unstable environment that is on the brink of collapsing.

There are three main reasons private equity’s bubble will “burst” in the upcoming years.  First, the federal government is beginning to increase interest rates.  These higher interest rates correlate to higher costs of capital, which in turn will reduce the returns many private equity companies will obtain. This lower equity impedes firms from generating additional revenue.

Second, as Andy Kessler from the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, banks have been decreasing their lending for leveraged deals over the past few years.  Regulators have been starting to refuse to give out loans more than six times earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation.  This ultimately hampers a private equity firm’s ability to make deals and raise revenue to purchase companies.  

Third, private equity hinders the economy.  A private equity firm’s main objective is to generate as much revenue as possible; therefore, many of these firms cut back on innovations, such as new products and services.  While they do create wealth for pension funds, private equity firms can reduce wealth in the economy, by as much as 0.5%-1%.  

It is no longer a matter of if this bubble will burst, but rather when it will.  Marc Andreessen, cofounder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, stated, “When the market turns, and it will turn, we will find out who has been swimming without trunks on.”  When this bubble bursts, it will have a detrimental impact on the economy, similar to that of the Dot-com bubble in 2000. When the market turns, two major events will happen.  One, companies will increase layoffs, seeing as they have a reduced amount of revenue to cover expenses.  As what happened during the Dot-com bubble, many of these companies will run out of capital and will either be acquired or liquidated.  Two, this burst will send prices falling precipitously and will wreak havoc on late-coming investors.  This downward shift reduces spending power, which could, in worse case scenarios, sedate the economy and cause a recession.  Although I do not believe that this downward trend will occur in the near future, history suggests that we will see the private equity bubble burst if company valuations do not become more realistic.  

 

 

Economic Effects of Gun Violence in Chicago

By Nia Hill

“Chiraq”- the unsought name of this beautiful city, Chicago. Mostly because of the horrendous number of crimes that occur on all sides of town. People are starting to realize that this violence is taking such a huge toll on the city- not only a social toll, but also a financial toll.

According to the Chicago Tribune, from the beginning of 2014 until now, there have been 363 homicides. Many of the crimes took place in various neighborhoods all over the Chicago: West Englewood, West Garfield Park, Austin, (Chicago Tribune, 2014)- the list goes on unfortunately.

If you were to ask any random citizen of Chicago, “Why does the violence occur?”, you would get synonymous answers: most crimes that occur are gun violence and drug related and most of the victims are of young ages. Most adolescents have lost   someone due to gun violence, which means their likelihood of being involved in any type of violence increases (CeaseFire, 2014).

Now, how is all of this violence financially related? If we think about it, every time someone dies, a variety of costs are associated: hospital costs, medical treatment, lost wages, missed opportunities, investigation and court costs, and more. Violence does not affect just any individual personally. Violence affects society as a whole. When a person gets killed in a certain community, that hinders people of all incomes, races and backgrounds to move into or invest in that community.

Na-Tae’, executive director and co-founder of True Star Foundation (TSF), believes that the young people of Chicago are involved in violence because of numerous reasons: “being bullied into it, searching for friends or some form of family, seeking out protection from bullies, and looking for financial gain because youth employment and opportunities are at an all-time low”. She also believes that violence takes a huge till on youth and that they might not realize it. They are so used to it that they become unaware of it.

At the end of the day, violence affects everyone. We need to make a change. We need to work together to stop violence in Chicago. We need to be aware that violence in our communities cannot continue to go on, because it will affect future generations. As Valeria Andrews once said, “If you wanna be somebody/ If you wanna go somewhere/ You better wake up and pay attention.”

 

 

 

 

 

Education: The American Downfall?

By Jonathan Switzer

In recent years, global mass media has touted the excellence of foreign education systems relative to those found in the United States.  Over and over, reports of academic ferocity - especially from Asian nations - have cast the sustainability of America's position as the premier global economic powerhouse into question.

But in order to assess the preparedness of the United States in competition against other developed nations in its ongoing bid for a so-called ‘economic superiority’ in today’s worldwide economic system of connectivity and interdependence, numerous factors have to be considered.  Let’s focus our attention on education.  Particularly, rankings and what they might mean.

And now for some simple numbers.  The Social Progress Index, a nonprofit devoted to analyzing metrics of worldwide productive progress, ranks the United States at forty-eighth in the world by measure of “Access to Basic Knowledge,” a semi-comprehensive composite of different educational factors affecting national productivity.  Japan places first worldwide in this regard.  When this parameter is averaged with international rankings for “Access to Advanced Education,” the United States surprisingly rises to the foremost slot.  Relatively, Japan falls to nineteenth.  What does this entail?

These numbers bring us to some fundamental and interesting trends.  For one, they could represent a rift between the qualities of primary and secondary education systems in America.  It seems that the economic advantage redeemed by the United States through its high-performance higher education system may be relatively outweighed by a greater systematic efficiency and effectiveness of teachings of basic knowledge elsewhere - primarily in Japan.  For instance, although the United States spends more per pupil on education than any other country on Earth, its students consistently rank far below students in nations like Singapore and Japan whose education has been less costly and has had greater emphasis on foundational concepts.  This has detrimental effects on the United States.  Let aforementioned 48th place be an indication.  

Another possibility is that the disparity between rankings of different education levels could represent a cultural and economic advantage in Japan.  Here in the United States, the phenomena of so-called ‘academic inflation’ of the past decades has substantiated a near-requirement for attaining advanced education, causing it to become a widespread prerequisite to employment and productivity.  Perhaps access to advanced education is simply unnecessary in Japan because a calamitous shift in advanced education - such as the one in America - hasn’t occurred there.

Adding to this uncertainty, superior education is not necessarily proportional to superior potential for economic prosperity.  To demonstrate this, let’s call into question other factors that affect education’s role in national productivity, such as specialization.  For instance, a country such as Singapore - which has a miniscule landmass, tremendous population, and rigorous international competition for prosperity - relies foundationally on the optimization of its most substantial resource: people.  As a result, in recent decades, education has observably become the means of Singapore’s optimization - the country has specialized in the production of and export of services requiring an adeptly educated workforce.  On the contrary, the United States is expansive, engorged with an abundance of resources, and maintaining a relatively low population density.  In this case, it seems that the optimization of education isn’t as essential to the country’s productivity as it is to nations such as Israel and Singapore.  In simpler terms, we don’t need homework.

Wealth Inequality

By Miro Ehrfeld 

The "wealth gap" has been a controversial and persistent issue in free market societies around the world. For decades, economists and politicians have been debating and implementing a variety of strategies in an attempt to alleviate the seemingly endless growing divide. Naturally, many economists turn to what the census bureau coins "middle class citizens" as potential candidates in facilitating solutions. Such solutions ranged from lowering the cost of sustainable education and levying higher taxes upon the top 1%, all the way to eliminating (or taxing) family trusts. The effects of these revitalization programs, however, have resulted in limited and or unsteady success. The exact numerical trend can be seen in volatility followed by a slight dip in the average household income of middle class citizens between 2005 and 2013 (Census Bureau US Median Household Income).

Despite the assured longterm potential of these projects, recent studies indicate that the problem may have begun to remedy itself. To justify this premise, economists refer to recent birthrate trends in the United States. According to Neil Howe at Forbes, " the birthrate again dropped to a historic low in 2013". The correlation between birthrate, population and the economy lies in employment. With substantially less people entering the workforce each year, employment rates are expected to rise accordingly. Theoretically, this would result in higher wages, diversity in career options and a confident, stable middle class.

In searching for a reference to refute the validity of the correlation, one might turn to new economic developments in China. Due to restrictions on the amount of children one may have, Chinese manufacturing capabilities have plummeted. Both Goldman Sachs and BBC News affirm the prediction that China will "grow old before it grows rich". America, however, thrives on its ability to innovate and create a diverse economy with new markets. Predictions anticipating Chinese prosperity were in large based on its capabilities to manufacture. Hopefully, this distinguishing factor will result in more optimism toward the depolarization of wealth inequality in America. 

The Economics of Adolescence

By Miro Ehrfeld

Year after year the number of unemployed college graduates accumulates. Despite extensive reemployment programs, many younger people are forced into jobs instead of careers. According to the Huffington Post, 57% (or more than 2 million) of college graduates are unemployed. Thus, many people have resorted to reexamining the benefits of higher education. Unemployment in itself is harmful to the economy, but unemployment of the younger, educated generation is critical. How can a nation excel without the presence and involvement of the best and brightest minds?  

One solution to the job deficit is entrepreneurship. Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, reminds us that "Brilliant college kids sitting in a dorm are inventing the future" (Reis 21). Without the option of a career path, many students put their valuable education and creativity to use by starting their own company. Not only does this nurture leadership, it fosters innovation; without the conventional structure of hierarchy, they feel entitled to exploit their imagination. In addition to instilling character and confidence, being an entrepreneur provides crucial exposure to fiscal, real world economics.  

Starting a company from scratch is a trying task; age discrimination, legal procedures, time management, and capital allocation are just a few of the hardships of the process. Even if the company is destined to fail, the experiences gained are incomparable. But if a startup is successful, it paves the way for endless possibilities. With the presence of a new company, jobs will be provided, money reinvested in the economy and a new, or refined, product made available. If nothing else, "being your own boss is awesome" (Lord).

 

The JEC Promise

This first article in The Junior Economist serves one purpose: establish once and for all the foundation of this organization.

As members change, the leadership rotates and social circumstances pose contemporary problems,  it is easy to diverge from the original purpose. It is for this reason we will always hold this discourse, the first one ever given to describe the Junior Economic Club, close regardless where future circumstances lead us. We can call it an ideology, a manifesto perhaps, but we see it as a promise to ourselves to stick true to the values and vision that inspired the Junior Economic Club into existence.

Chicago has seen its fair share of troubles over its history, from the infamous Chicago Fire to the crippling effects of the Great Depression. And yet, we as a city have overcome every challenge, emerging stronger and more united each time.  This is due to the ability of the city’s population to think critically and acts decisively.  History has shown we can overcome differences and problem-solve. These fantastic qualities, engraved into the very foundation of this city, have been without question passed onto today’s generation.  Chicago has an unprecedented spirit of initiative and willpower among its youth. From one of the most active student unions in America to a variety of student-led initiatives, there are opportunities abound for Chicago’s youth to voice their opinions on education, socioeconomic inequality and world affairs. There has been a desire to make a positive impact from a young age. 
And yet most students have experienced the frustration that comes with wanting to make an impact, to bring to life a fantastic idea, but being unable to act. Perhaps we lack the resources available to those older than us. Perhaps our age doesn’t lend itself to credibility. Perhaps we simply have not yet had the chance to acquire the expertise necessary to influence the world around us.  The Junior Economic Club was created first and foremost to provide a supportive ecosystem for aspiring Chicago youth to achieve exactly what they aim to accomplish.
The organization began organically, grown from students’ desire to make a meaningful, positive and real world impact. I want to take the time to enumerate the three main challenges that were the inspiration for this organization.  Firstly, students are, for the most part, protected from the larger debate of economic policy and direction and therefore have no real world perspective on the financial issues facing our generation.  Secondly, while the gap between students and professionals is closing in just about every industry, from scientific research to journalism, the gap between bright, thoughtful students and economics, finance and business remains large. Thirdly, much socioeconomic disparity later in life stems from the widely varying opportunities available to students during the early years of their education.
In view of these challenges, the mission of this Club is to spark and facilitate meaningful discussion about economic issues among determined high school students. We are fostering a community where motivated students can be exposed to new ideas, be inspired to discuss complicated economic issues and act to secure a better future for Chicago and our generation.  Our philosophy is our differentiating factor: The JEC truly believes that, given the right guidance and support, high school students are fully capable of solving the toughest economic problems facing our society.
Our vision for the Junior Economic Club is simple: We envision this organization remaining for decades as the hub for ambition and aspiration among the most motivated students of Chicago. Membership at the Junior Economic Club will by synonymous with initiative and excellence. By giving the next generation a head start, the Club is nurturing more effective, efficient, and responsible leaders, thereby supporting Chicago's prosperous future for generations to come. 
We break the convention that you have to wait until after college to begin making an impression on the world around you. The real world begins now. The hard work begins now. The challenges begin now. And now we, the next generation of Chicago, begin to build a more prosperous and sustainable future. 

 

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