It’s Time for a Repair Jobs Revolution
Fostering repair will give people access to affordable products, make a huge dent in the e-waste problem, and create jobs.
Repair jobs can’t be outsourced—who would ship a washing machine from Chicago to Shanghai for repairs?
Fixing our out-of-use electronics will employ people and bridge the digital divide.
It’s already starting: Patagonia employs seamstresses to repair their clothes—in the USA!
Unemployment wastes good workers
“Mass joblessness is a shameful waste of human resources… and now threatens to create an underclass of long-term unemployed whose skills are atrophying.”—Economist Alan Blinder
For every 1000 tons of electronics…
creates < 1 job
creates 15 jobs
creates 200 jobs
Repair Manuals are Essential
Products are designed in the US and Europe.
They’re manufactured by legions of workers in Asia.
Repair shops in Asia thrive on the information shared by those manufacturers.
Repair workers in the US and Europe are struggling because they don’t have the information they need.
Repair jobs are local jobs.
Industrialized countries worry about their skilled jobs getting sent overseas, where there are fewer labor restrictions and workers with lower wage expectations.
But while American jobs keep slipping overseas, repair jobs are not offshorable. These jobs are skilled, well paid, and continually in demand. Our stuff is here! That stuff will eventually break, and we will always need people to fix it.
29% of jobs at risk
Economist Alan Blinder says 29% of US jobs are "offshorable"—but repair jobs aren’t.
Respect the trades
Manual jobs are critical to our economic future—these jobs are skilled, stable, and in demand.
Repairing electronics creates 13 times more jobs than recycling them.
Repair jobs are growing.
Few businesses continue to grow in a down economy—but repair does! More and more, people are trying to make the most out of the stuff they already own.
Thousands of locally owned and operated smartphone repair shops have popped up in the last few years. The electronics and computer repair industry in the United States supports 60,000 small businesses that employ 175,000 people, for a total of $21 billion in annual revenue.
That’s huge: if all those businesses were put together, they would be bigger than Barnes & Noble, Mattel, and MasterCard combined.
Let’s bring back the trades.
“We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”
iFixit’s open source electronics repair manuals have sparked a resurgence of local electronics repair shops. New smartphone repair businesses started in the last few years are already employing tens of thousands of people.
Out-of-use electronics could help bridge the digital divide.
Training new repair techs wouldn’t just create jobs—it could help get expensive technology into the hands of people who need it. There are 5 million tons of out-of-use electronics neglected in garages, junk drawers, and storage units around America.
Meanwhile, the digital divide isn’t shrinking as fast as everyone predicted: 60% of American households making under $30,000 per year still do not have broadband access at home—many because they cannot afford a desktop computer.
The only thing standing between many of those out-of-use computers and a needy low-income owner is a little bit of repair: replacing a 5-cent blown capacitor, swapping out a faulty RAM chip, or reflowing the solder on an ageing circuit board.
We get letters every day from people who have started their own successful repair businesses.
Owen Cunneely started his own business fixing laptops and iPhones when he was just a teenager. Robert Litt teaches students to repair electronics and simultaneously equips classrooms with desperately-needed, inexpensive electronics.
“Discarded computers are our nation’s most wasted
It’s time to fix our economy.
Let’s train up an army of mechanics and technicians and make repair local again.
Start your own repair business!
Take something apart with your son or daughter. Teach them that what's broken can be fixed.
Support your local repair shops.