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Future of Jobs and New Welfare Models

At the time of this writing, in the middle of the 21st Century, the era of steady and permanent jobs for life is seeing as another relic from the Industrial 20th Century. Systemic automation had first significantly reduced the need for human intervention in manufacturing most products and then made humans redundant also in intermediation jobs and in jobs where software could take over intellectual tasks.

This human redundancy in the job market has pushed the society to re-emphasise aspects of their cultural richness such as handicraft professions, which started being transformed and expanded through the support of new technologies like 3D-printing. As a consequence, the opposition between intellectual and manual works progressively attenuated, especially in terms of social status or hierarchy associated in the social pyramid. A major contributor to a peaceful transition was the decision, firstly taken by rich European countries, to provide a baseline stipend that guarantees the provision for basic needs to all citizens.

Working patterns today typically change throughout one's lifetime according to varying personal needs and aspirations, and cannot be forced solely within the boundaries of formal education. This goes hand in hand with competence requalification cycles at all ages. Empowered individuals have taken different and more holistic approaches to work, which radically transformed their life styles.

With the end of the era of product, data, and quantitative analysis, a shift took place in favour of the valorisation of intuition and creativity, i.e. those intrinsically human qualities that computers still cannot imitate. The existence of many intermediary web sites that analyse demand and advertise the proposed solutions not only in real time, but also before those solutions even exist, allows for a world of just-in-time production of goods and services that fulfils needs that are observed in real-time. The final consumer is the new shop-floor manager.

In the new "job-order" of the super-centenarian European society, retirement is an anachronism and new programs of intergenerational partnerships have been elaborated to facilitate new forces entering the job market. Career insecurity has also entailed a cultural shift, back to values such as family, human relationships, and community solidarity, where total flexibility at work allows for quality time for caring about loved ones and even for new forms of self-implemented welfare: Elderly people, otherwise living alone, form new “families” as a means of mutual-sustainability, because of a lack of close relatives, of sufficient state mechanisms to support the large elderly population, and of significant lowering of pensions availability.

Evidence

1. The results of all brainstormings undergone at the "Ground-breaking Policies for Future Societies" workshop, including this very vision, can be found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/97929558@N08/sets

2. The Future of Work and Leisure (OECD) http://www.oecd.org/futures/38453158.pdf

3. Future of Working http://www.futureofworking.com

4. Future of Work (Lynda Gratton) http://lyndagrattonfutureofwork.typepad.com/lynda-gratton-future-of-work

5. The Future of Work (Time) http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1898024,00.html

Key transformative forces (partly already visible in today's trends)

Science and technology:

  • Progress in bio-medicine will enable people to remain active, work and learn until the very last day of their life. This will impact the demography of the labour force which will grow with even more accelerated pace than today, putting the balance between active and in-active population under stress.
  • As future robotic systems will do most of the routine work, new types of jobs will only emerge in areas where intellectual capacity and creativity cannot be delivered algorithmically by machines.
  • The commoditisation of 3D printers will make possible the self-production of many consumer items like clothes or furniture.
  • Because of the likely higher costs of energy and transport, food will also be produced close to the place of consumption. Only the manufacturing of large artefacts (e.g. nuclear turbines, aircrafts, etc.) requiring large-scale industrial robotics will remain centralised in few plants.
  • Future internet technologies, including future immersive mixed reality interfaces, will enable new efficiencies and economies of scale in workflows, resulting in further shockwaves across the society. Industries and businesses of all sorts and personal life will be transformed as the Internet of Things will gradually pervade the marketplace and our lives.
  • Broadband connections

Economy:

  • Major economic power shifts, both among world regions and from sovereign states to large corporations, fluctuations in labour costs as well as major technological advances in technology will create new dynamics in the production and consumption of goods. This will result in a new geo-localisation of production and consumption of goods and services, i.e. new global business ecosystems.
  • Digital technologies will continue to transform the very nature of work and the dynamics of organizations and labour markets. For instance, part-time work, tele-working, virtual meetings etc. will become common practices at all levels. This will impact global economies and national cultures, which in turn will likely force governments and unions to review employment strategies and welfare systems.
  • The idea of a shared workplace as a fixed, physical location will change considerably as work becomes more
  • distributed through technology and as new technologies will allow working remotely with realistic experiences (mixed and immersive reality technologies).
  • Work will be modularised into discrete projects and sourced not just with current employees but also with external ones (including former colleagues). Other companies will use concurrent sourcing to identify talent, make predictions about the future and generate new ideas and knowledge. Sharing work experiences and aspirations will become common practices.
  • Entrepreneurship will be characterised by more self-responsibility and life-long training.

Personal life:

  • Active and ageing population.
  • People will improve their working experience by enhancing their cognitive capabilities to digest knowledge through the use of apps and psychological training.
  • The blending of the virtual and the physical collaborative spaces will lead to new spaces for collaboration and new working experiences.
  • New and better balances between private and professional lives.
  • The trend toward a longer and more flexible active life will allow citizens accomplishing their aspirations at a slower and longer span pace.
  • People will experience multiple jobs in their lives, alternating entrepreneurship with dependent job profiles.
  • Do-It-Yourself approaches will become common practice because of the availability of shared and standardised blueprints for products and services, best practices, case studies, interactive guidelines, and possibilities to co-design in virtual spaces before productions (e.g. with 3d Printers).
  • Current teenagers found their comfort zones through the Internet

Society:

  • Corporate hierarchies of the 21th century will be much more flattened. Social-networking and concurrent sourcing will be used to staff and finance projects. Instead of looking to specific and high-specialised jobs, companies will seek for highly flexible and adaptable profiles.
  • Instead of a single bosses or management teams evaluating the performance of an employee, alternative means of appraising performance will emerge. For instance, an assessment system where people outside of the organization will evaluate the employees.
  • New management mind-sets will emerge to cope with an increasingly dynamic working environment. Managers will no longer focus on standardized procedures, patterns of interaction among employees, the work plan and predicted outcomes. They will rather focus on how employees participate in informal communities of practice.
  • Work tasks will be increasingly accomplished concurrently (i.e. “crowdsourcing” regulated by project-level rules and algorithms and where workers will focus on different components without losing the holistic views of the final products or services).
  • People will contribute to projects without necessarily getting paid with currency but with rewarding and recognition. Remuneration could be based on quality rather than quantity of delivered services.
  • Sharing culture.
  • Climate change awareness.
  • Sustainability awareness.
  • Co-creation.
Challenges: 
  • Maintenance and protection of personal information as more information is shared.
  • Economic wealth to maintain a baseline stipend that guarantees the provision for basic needs to all citizens.
  • Period of transition – who will the losers and winners be?
Opportunities: 
  • Technology as a key enabler to support new approaches to work.
  • Technology enabled working practices reduce the need for investment in infrastructure.
  • Create a new sense of connectivity within society.
Questions: 
How will tension between the state and the individual evolve? Does the state “push” responsibility to the individual or does the individual “pull” responsibility from the state? What about those who are unable or unwilling to exercise self-responsibility?
What tensions will come into play between different cultures, different trading blocks, and nation states?
What are the generational implications for such a fundamental shift in how individuals behave within the economic system (consumers and producers)?
How will the growth of power exercised by corporations and individuals be experienced by politicians?
What legislation will be required to protect employee rights as corporations gain more power?
Timeframe: 
2050
Desirability: 

Likelihood: 

Curators: 

Underpinning policy ideas