U.S. Infrastructure in 2021 and Beyond
American infrastructure is far from what it was in the post-WWII era when we accomplished amazing projects like the extensive system of highways and bridges that now span the country. As time has passed and the various pieces that make up this system have gotten older, not only have they grown inefficient, but some may even be potentially dangerous. If you drive, you know that sometimes it really seems as if construction on our various highways and transit systems is endless, however, this is far from the extensive building and repair that is currently needed. This extends to not only roads and highways, but to other seemingly unrelated pieces of this huge system called “infrastructure”. Whether it is our public transportation, our broadband system, or even our water treatment facilities, they’re all in need of a serious overhaul. Thankfully, as 2021 rolls out, along with the labor shortage in the industry, we’re seeing more and more awareness and action towards fixing this system, so serious mobilization is necessary to meet this historical need.
While the United States economy is the largest in the world, according to the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report, we’re only #13 in infrastructure, falling behind countries like Japan and the Netherlands and, in first place, Singapore. While our roads and airports are satisfactory, other aspects such as water, railways, and broadband are lacking compared to what our counterparts have managed to build. The key difference has ultimately been investment. Over the past few years, our infrastructure spending has dropped to an all-time low, to the point where our national systems cannot keep up.
While the deteriorating state of the US public infrastructure is often discussed as a major issue, we’ve yet to see concrete plans for dealing with these systems. However, early this year expert predictions hinted that this would change over the course of the year, which we are seeing slowly come true as time goes on. As of July, politicians in Congress have been working hard to pass an infrastructure bill that works for all Americans. It would include improvements in roads and bridges, transit and power systems, broadband, and more.
While the final form of these interventions has yet to be decided, they would have a large effect on the construction and skilled trades industry. The most obvious change is that there would be a drop in unemployment as the demand for workers to fill new positions rises. However, this could also lead to an increase in wages for those in the industry. Finally, the long-term growth that it would bring to the US economy overall would be massive, indicated by the growth seen in other nations.
Although we have a ways to go before any plans are finalized (and even longer before they become a reality), this is a great opportunity for those in the construction industry, both on the worker side and contractor side, to flourish as new opportunities begin to appear.