The “recycling” of the working class during the transition from an industrial to a service-based economy involved significant changes in the economy, politics, and society. Deindustrialization in Pennsylvania during the 1970s/80s resulted in a range of economic, political, and social consequences.
Economically, deindustrialization led to the loss of many well-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs. This had a significant impact on workers and their families, particularly in regions like Pennsylvania that had a strong industrial base. Many workers were forced to accept lower-paying service jobs, often with little job security or benefits, leading to increased economic insecurity.
Politically, deindustrialization led to a decline in the power of labor unions, which had been strong in the manufacturing sector. This in turn weakened the bargaining power of workers and led to a decrease in wages and benefits. Additionally, many policymakers were slow to respond to the economic changes brought about by deindustrialization, leaving many workers without adequate support.
Socially, deindustrialization had a significant impact on communities. Many manufacturing towns in Pennsylvania saw their economies and populations decline, leading to increased poverty, crime, and social dislocation. The loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs also had a disproportionate impact on minority and immigrant communities, who had traditionally been overrepresented in the manufacturing sector.
One reason why social welfare programs were meager during this period is that many policymakers and politicians viewed them as a form of “handout” that discouraged people from seeking work. There was also a strong anti-government sentiment during this time, particularly among conservatives, who argued that government intervention in the economy was detrimental to growth and prosperity. As a result, many social welfare programs were cut or eliminated during this period, leaving many workers without adequate support.