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The world is changing rapidly and we are curious what the future has in store for us. We shiver with apprehension when it comes to the rise robots and artificial intelligence. But is there a reason to fear a jobless future?
It’s true that technological advances are eliminating jobs and tasks, but primarily those that require low-level professional qualifications. Whether it comes to automated parking booths or supermarket tills, what we are witnessing is the erosion of low paid jobs.
But emerging forms of technology and automation are making more highly qualified professionals obsolete, too. Professions like a financial analyst, lawyer and tax expert are waning, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
In 2000, more than 600 traders worked in Goldman Sachs’s New York headquarters. Seven years later, the number of equity traders reduced to two because algorithms handled by computer engineers were finally able to take over the rest of the work.
And the same pattern keeps repeating in other Wall Street firms. Computerized trading has grown to a point when self-completing online tax returns and machine learning approaches to accountancy are seriously threatening human-dominated jobs in financial services.
So which seven trends are about to dominate in the years to come?
First, we need to say farewell to permanent contracts and embrace the era of self-employment and freelancing. The future asks for flexibility.
According to McKinsey Global Institute, as many as 30% of workers in the US and Europe earn a portion of their income through independent work — freelance activities, self-employment, or rapidly expanding digital gig or sharing economy platforms.
This also means that people can no longer rely on social safety nets of insurance, medical coverage, social security or paid vacation. In fact, 94% of the new jobs in the US created between 2005 and 2015 were those that gave workers no protection at all.
In the short run, the trend of impermanence is sure to contribute to increased worker vulnerability and challenge the relevance of trade unions in the years to come.
2. Life expectancy.
Thanks to the high quality of health care, humans are today living longer than ever before.
The life expectancy rises steadily by 2 years every decade. And in Japan, Italy and Germany, women’s life expectancy is approaching 90 and men have already reached 80. But let’s have a look at the consequences, too.
First, the number of people whose retirement lasts longer than their career is rising. According to a recent study, there are more than 700,000 people in Italy that have been pensioners for at least 35 years. And the sustainability of such model is questionable, to say the least.
Second, we conventionally divide our life into three parts — education, career and retirement. But does drawing clear lines help in today’s world? Due to the stiffness of our education systems and an ever-increasing youth experience gap, young people will need to focus on living a life of continuous learning instead.
3. New professions.
There’s no need to worry about gloom and doom scenarios for massive unemployment. So far, technology has created more jobs than destroyed.
According to a recent McKinsey study, more than 50% of new jobs in the US are brand new occupations. Apparently, we are about to see different kinds of professionals that will be in high demand in the years to come.
Hiring managers will go to great lengths to find experts in artificial intelligence, the internet of things, specialists in cyber-security, internet governance, social media, startups, machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, Blockchain and many other fields we don’t have names for yet.
And salaries for these emerging professions are sure to be sky-high, too!
Despite the rising level of awareness, gender pay gap is real. Women still tend to be employed in roles that fail to meet their level of skill and expertise.
But this is going to change soon. There’s no doubt that future belongs to women and their superior skills.
Whereas men feel natural in the world competition, women have a better capacity for collaboration, empathy, creativity, listening skills and lifelong learning. It’s exactly these human characteristics that make them more suited for jobs created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
5. Employee empowerment.
In order to survive, companies need to reflect rapid changes in the job market and abandon outdated concepts and ideas.
We need to stop building stiff companies that build upon the principles of the First Industrial Revolution. Workers in such companies are still seen as machines or even as replaceable spare parts.
The workplace of the future will do away with the constant nightmare of losing one’s job or giving up one’s dignity. Companies will revisit their values and empower their employees so that they will feel free to work to the best of their ability.
Working from home has become an increasingly viable option for many employees. But with the era of ubiquitous Internet access fast approaching, workers of the future will have even more control.
In tomorrow’s society, your work is no longer a place that you go to — it is something that you do, independent of location.
The ultimate flexibility will allow us to work anytime, anywhere, and with any device. Thanks to flexible work schedules and environments, our work won’t confine us to a specific time and place any longer.
7. Universal basic income.
Who wouldn’t like to earn money without working? But don’t get mistaken — the concept of universal basic income goes much deeper than that.
Governments believe the policy could help people live more healthy, prosperous lives. It should be a solution to major problems like crime, poverty, malnutrition, diseases and debts.
Basic income pilots have already been launched in a number of countries over the world, and the idea is on the verge of reaching mainstream politics.
The concept has been endorsed by many high-profile Silicon Valley executives, too. While Mark Zuckerberg sees it a cushion that will allow everyone to try new things, Elon Musk sees it as an economic response to the arrival of increased automation and intelligent technologies that will eventually overtake the human capacity for work.
But how to finance such an insanely expensive project? Well, Bill Gates seems to have an answer. He suggested introducing a tax on machines like robots and AI that would help offset the social impact of automation and foster the sustainability of the universal basic income.
These workplace trends are already here.
Every change happens for a reason. These seven emerging trends in the nature of work and its organization share a common goal of making people’s lives more meaningful.
Machines can live without a salary or satisfaction. But we humans are driven by purpose, autonomy, capacity for self-improvement, and a deep sense of fairness and transparency.
So it’s very likely machines will keep taking over mediocre or trivial jobs that workers of the future will no longer be interested in. People, in turn, will be free to work on positions that require values and creativity.
And that’s a far more optimistic prospect, isn’t it?