The next two decades promise a full-scale revolution in our working lives. Before we look at the next 20 years, let's take a quick look at the present, and something once considered paradoxical.
We already live in the age of many robots, and many jobs.
As the number of robots at work has reached record levels, it's worth noting that in 2018 the global unemployment level fell to 5.2%, according to a report last month, the lowest level in 38 years.
In other words, high tech and high employment don't have to be mutually exclusive. We are living proof of that today.
Given this synchrony between jobs and technology, I think there is reason to be hopeful that jobs will become more accessible, more flexible, and more liberating in the next two decades.
Here are five significant changes, as I previously highlighted for the World Economic Forum:
The most constructive discussion is not whether or not there will be change, but rather what we need to do to ensure the best, most inclusive outcomes.
Here are some recommendations that could help guide us towards a positive future of work:
Rapid technological change means that people operating ever-evolving machines need to learn new skills quickly. Our current education system adapts too slowly to change and works too inefficiently for this new world.
We need to build an education system for lifelong learning and a culture that promotes it. The rewiring of the system should start with kindergarten, which should be free and compulsory, while education should remain accessible throughout a person's working life.
Skills, not college pedigree, will be what matter for the future workforce, so while we need to make sure college is affordable, we also need to make sure higher education is worth the cost , or revise it entirely and take advantage of more progressive approaches to skills training . Skills-focused vocational programs, as well as other ways to move up the skills ladder (such as apprenticeships), must be widely accessible and affordable.
In addition, our education system must equip people with skills that machines are not good at (yet). This means meta-skills like entrepreneurship, teamwork, curiosity, and adaptability.
As government at all levels adapts to a changing workforce, businesses must shoulder some of the burden as well. And, like government, businesses must invest in both the workforce they have today and the workforce they will need tomorrow. That means they need to spend more resources training new workers for job openings and invest more in training their current employees. Tax policies can encourage companies to take these steps. For example, governments may tax companies whose former workers end up unemployed or take low-paying jobs, both signs that they have underinvested in their workforces. These types of policies should lead to positive-sum results across the entire workforce: the workforce adapts to available jobs, businesses have the talent they need to meet their goals, and the government sees an increase in the tax base by a more steady growth in the workforce.
Our taxes, health care, unemployment insurance, and pension systems were built for the industrial age, and they won't serve anyone in the future if we can't do significant reforms.
For decades, that system was aligned with the way most workers worked. But as that has changed, and indeed is rapidly happening to us, all parties need to "explore the benefits and protections of 'decoupling' status from full-time employment and distribute them more evenly across the productive workforce." ", according to a new Forum white paper.
Flexibile employment is a growing trend in the world's workforce.
Innovation and technological advances in the delivery of such benefits can also help with this change. For a safety net of the future to be effective, it must encompass technology to deliver benefits. Edtech, for example, offers low-cost ways to provide skills training. It must also be designed by its stakeholders, not just the citizens receiving training, but also the companies, unions, and other groups that depend on that preparation and training to ensure they can meet their goals with pipeline workers.
Myriad policy ideas are being tested to change the delivery of benefits, such as “flexicurity,” Denmark's model, which offers government benefits such as unemployment insurance and highly subsidized skills training. Others, such as "portable benefits" and a universal basic income, or UBI, are also worth further examination for their usefulness. And we should challenge ourselves to continue to drive innovation in this area, and work with governments to create sandboxes for these ideas to be tested, while respecting the needs of today's and tomorrow's workforce.
By acting together, government and business can make life easier for people by creating more inclusion. They can get started by embracing remote work, flexible scheduling, and the power of the platform.
Working in an office is often not possible or practical for new parents, single parents, some of those living with a disability, or many others in our society, but given the option of working from home or set their own hours, many would. able to earn an income. And many already are.
"Today, approximately 20-30% of the working-age population in the US and EU-15 are self-employed, and the numbers are even higher in most emerging markets," according to the World Economic Forum.
Platforms like my company, Upwork, are helping fuel this trend by creating faster and better ways for buyers and sellers to connect. And for millions of people around the world, through our site and a host of others, this is already providing new opportunities for income and the flexibility to live the life they want. So today's message to the government is: "First, do no harm." But most importantly, looking ahead, encouraging government policies that don't discourage freelancing, including freelancing, can allow more people to work than they otherwise couldn't. In fact, McKinsey, the global consultancy, estimates that "by 2025 they could add $2.7 trillion to global GDP and begin to ameliorate many of the persistent problems in global labor markets."
Promoting remote work and flexible scheduling could boost women's participation in the workforce and, according to some economists, reduce gender inequality.
A major company provides a major proof of concept. In the mid-1990s, Ernst and Young (EY) began aggressively promoting its "flexibility efforts" after the consultancy realized that female EY employees were leaving the company at a rate of 10 to 15 points. percentage higher than their male counterparts.
Twenty-seven years later, according to one report, “with formal flexible working, part-time and short hours, and informal day-to-day flexibility, along with other efforts.. EY keeps men and women at the same rate. And they have achieved their original goal of promoting female partners, with women accounting for about 30% of each new partner class each year."
Local communities can also facilitate freelancing by creating more virtual workspaces and tools to get work done. This would help expand opportunities in new communities, opening rivers of new capital to cities as decentralized workplaces take root, even at a micro level.
The last three industrial revolutions have enabled increasing levels of globalization. And while they have generally been positive for the global economy, the transitions have often been very scary and have even left some people behind in the long run. Western economies have seen a shrinking middle class since recent waves of deindustrialization. Now the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, is enabling globalization 4.0, and while its positive effects are likely to be just as strong, if not stronger, than previous versions, we need to ensure that this revolution creates the most inclusive growth. possible for everyone. It is up to each of us, as global citizens and individual stakeholders, to help create that path, one that provides the future of work people need, as well as the training and support for them to thrive.
This article is part of the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum. p>