the big apple?

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There’s a couple of companies that embody the bright new future of the knowledge based economy, ebay, Google, Intel and Cisco to name several, but surely THE one to do so in an ecliptic manner is Apple. What may surprise you is that America’s largest company, set to launch the latest iteration of it’s all-conquering iPad this week, employs only 47,000. This figure, naturally prompts the question, is the knowledge-based economy also a jobless one?

History provides the ideal context: when General Motors was America’s biggest company it employed in excess of 600,000 people. Do the current crop of lauded organisations prove the new hi-tech economy benefits the few and ignores the masses? And it’s not just Apple, Google employs just 24,000 and ebay only 17,700. Mind, if you’ve ever tried to actually get anyone from any of these companies on the phone to try and solve a problem (er…sorry, issue) you may have, you may indeed be pleasantly surprised that they employ THAT many people!

Mindful of the public criticism that a ‘designed in the west and built in the east’ tag could have on their scrupulously whiter-than-white image, all these companies cite that such figures and potential accusations ignore the knock-on benefit that they bring to their host countries through the positive impact of their whole supply chain. Indeed, Apple themselves claim it has created some 200,000+ jobs within the burgeoning apps development field, not to mention the 300,000+ in such roles as making ‘planes and trucks and vans that ferry our product to our customers. Oh, right. Wasn’t it ever thus? Did customers hike over to Detroit and pick up their new Vauxhall directly?

Logically, and even completely objectively, there is no denying that this is the nature of the beast and it’s something that every western economy, operating in a capitalist regime, has to face up to. We need to accept that the future job-market is one that is very much divided on have/have not lines. On one side we have high-paying, professional and creative roles that require considerable skill, knowledge and education but on the other we have those that either support this economy or support those individuals within it: the petrol attendants, shop assistants, hairdressers and burger flippers – predominantly low-paid and low-skilled jobs. Within a buoyant economy both sides will flourish and grow in size but only one will do so in terms of wealth.