As we discussed at the beginning of the year, our workforce landscape is changing. With robotics, automation, and AI taking on an even bigger role in the way work gets done, we’re looking at what is likely to be a dramatic shift in our work: Will we have enough work and jobs left? Will the models for our work continue to shift, as we’ve seen happen with the gig economy or fissured work? Can we work efficiently and sustainably with a new work model?
Impact on the global economy
According to McKinsey Global Institute, about 50 percent of current work activities could be automated just by adapting technologies we already have, but less than 5 percent of occupations could be fully automated. But with more than 60 percent of occupations having at least one third of activities ready for automation, we’re in for big –and probably difficult–transitions in how we work.
Jobs with predictable and repeatable activities or motions—operating machinery and preparing fast food, for example—are the most likely to be largely affected by automation. Careers that require expertise, creative vision, or human interaction—architecture, legal careers, theatre—will be less affected by robotics.
Retraining to change occupations
Up to 375 million workers might need to change occupations from easily automated jobs to jobs that require more of a human element: the janitor begins a photography company; the forklift driver turns to writing novellas.
We’ll need to spend more time on things that machines aren’t quite as good at—managing people; communicating with others; using social skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence. We could find ourselves needing to invest time and energy into learning softer skills that have more staying power than the easily replaced skills. And of course, to provide this kind of training, we’ll need to change how we train each other and what we teach each other.
Universal basic income
A universal basic income is an unconditional income paid by the government to all citizens whether or not they’re working. Also called a universal living wage or guaranteed minimum wage, a universal basic income has been proposed as a solution to loss of jobs. Advocates of the minimum wage suggest that a basic income will encourage entrepreneurial efforts, educational endeavors, and humanitarian deeds.
Having more than one person share full-time job could mitigate some of the lost jobs. Just as companies have been allowing more remote work and flexible time to accommodate their workforce and to emphasize work/life balance, allowing employees to share a workload could mean that income is more equally allocated across a workforce.
We’re still left with some big questions: How do we transition to a culture—and government—that allows us to adapt to a future of uncertain balance? How do we ensure that we can work sustainably?
Questions or Comments?
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The Future of Work: Part 1
Case Study – Waverly Labs
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