Today's dose of depression on science jobs

Brian Vastig reports in the Washington Post on the problem with calls for more Ph.D. scientists: “U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs arent there”.

Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever. Once a primary career path, only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey. That figure has been steadily declining since the 1970s, said Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University who studies the scientific workforce. The reason: The supply of scientists has grown far faster than the number of academic positions.

The story goes on to note the job losses in pharmaceuticals and other industry categories. Related, from Bob Cringely on the IT industry: “IT class warfare Its not just IBM”.

In America right now there is a glut of $80,000-and-above IT workers and a shortage of $40,000-and-below IT workers.
Remember that $80,000-and-above population comes with a surcharge for benefits that may not equally apply to the $40,000-and-below crowd, especially if those are overseas or in this country temporarily. A good portion of that surcharge relates to costs that increase with age, so older workers are more expensive than younger workers.
Its illegal to discriminate based on age but not illegal to discriminate based on cost, yet one is a proxy for the other. So this is not just class warfare, it is generational warfare.

Academic jobs are subject to different dynamics than corporate jobs, but some related phenomena are at play. Most academic scientists who make it onto the tenure track begin to experience “salary compression” – the phenomenon in which institutions pay a market rate to new Ph.D. hires, which grows faster than the salaries paid to continuing faculty. This is a sort of perverse intergenerational conflict that arises in part because of tenure. By limiting the ability of mid-career academics to move to a new job, tenure protects universities against having to offer experienced faculty competitive salaries. Young researchers enter a speculation market in which most will fail to find academic jobs, while a few good “tenure prospects” are offered higher and higher salaries by the institutions that can afford them.