To counter the hollowing out of the middle class, efforts must be made to renew people’s belief in the future, US Vice-President Joe Biden told participants in a keynote address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016.
“The middle class is about possibilities – the possibilities for anyone willing to work hard to achieve a decent life,” Biden said. A thriving and growing middle class has been the main reason for social stability in the world’s democracies, Biden stressed. “When the middle class does well, the wealthy do very well and the poor have a ladder up.”
Biden warned, “The [Fourth Industrial] Revolution has the potential to further hollow out the middle class. It is our responsibility to bend these changes to the benefit of society – to make sure that the digital revolution creates more winners than losers.”
Biden blamed short-term thinking by employers for worsening conditions for workers. He outlined five ways to bolster the middle class – invest in education and training, strengthen core social protection and obligations to employees, modernize infrastructure, ensure that tax regimes are more progressive and that everybody pays their fair share, and make capital more widely available.
“We have to go back to more of the basics,” Biden said. “Rebuilding pathways to the middle class is an economic imperative.” If the middle class loses its belief in the possibility of a better life, “then we have lost something really special – the soul of our humanity that no machine can replace,” Biden observed.