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The Future of Work

August 26, 2019

  1. Work is central to life. Time is the major asset of most of the workers, and earning wages while using time to work is the major source of income for most families. The world’s labor force of 3.6 billion increases by 40 million a year, half the 80 million a year increase in the global population. Almost all labor force growth is in developing countries.
  2. Major issues in the future of work include (1) AI, machine learning, and automation, or will there be enough jobs, (2) changing models of work such as the gig economy and independent contractors and outsourced workers, and (3) inequality or the gap between the highest and lowest earners. These issues have prompted discussions of the adequacy of current labor laws and social welfare systems when many employees are independent contractors and the desirability of a universal basic income (UBS) to protect the weakest members of society.
  3. Migrant workers fill jobs along the easy-hard to automate and employee-contractor spectrum. Physical work in controlled environments such as in factories is easiest to automate, while human interactions as in child and elderly care is hardest. With migrants employed in a wide range of occupations along the spectrum ranking jobs by how easy they are to automate, policy questions include whether governments will treat migrants as disposable, recruited when needed and sent home when not, or as probationary immigrants who “earn” the right to stay and are covered by UBS and similar protective schemes.

Drivers of change

  • Tech & automation—eliminate routine jobs in controlled environments—reshape every job
  • Demographics—aging LFs—not as physically capable—ldcs have most of the young workers around the world, and they can participate beyond their borders via tech or via migration
  • Pull—power of consumers up over buyers, workers vs ers???