Above: An employee working on their laptop.
– Deidre Samson
This 18th Century nursery rhyme isn’t far off in pointing out how jobs can move in the wrong direction.
In fact, we are all a little bit ‘out to sea’ when we start to predict what the future of jobs is likely to be as the tsunami of technology-enablement and cognitive automation plays havoc with our career plans and the life aspirations of our children!
Luckily we have a number of wise people and organisations who have made it their mission to look to the future to help us to better understand whether our careers are well rooted in the future world of work or whether we need to make alternate plans for what is also being called the post-work era.
The historian Yuval Noah Harari confirms that ‘Pandemics press the fast forward button on history.’ COVID-19 has certainly done just that for the world of work as remote working, tele-conferencing and the accelerated adoption of technology to reduce the potential for humans to be infected have become mainstream.
But it’s not just technology that has contributed to workplace disruption. Income inequality, societal unrest and a growing lack of trust in government and corporations have all contributed to a questioning of what has been long accepted as the ‘social contract’ underpinning the way citizens earns their livelihood and abide by society’s rules.
Even the Economist confirms that the fundamentals of macro-economics are in question as millions of people around the world (mostly those already disadvantaged in society), lose their jobs or receive government relief to ensure that they do not end up destitute. Low interest rates coupled with fiscal stimulus has always been a tenet of 21st Century economic policy. But what if the demand and jobs never return? Could negative interest rates coupled with small universal basic income grants be the right medicine to enable economic growth? With COVID-19 being forecast to return in waves rather than just being extinguished, the question of sustainably funding ongoing government support is fast becoming a major challenge.
The reality is that we are at a watershed moment in history. The decisions and actions we take will impact the rest of our career, whether or not we retire with enough money to live out our golden years or how our children with thrive or fail in their careers.
It is becoming widely acknowledged that technology is not the enemy and its’ not our friend. It’s an agnostic force to be channelled in the interest of mankind – if we can find the right way to reshape the social contract of tomorrow.
So, if being a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker is not on the cards going forward, what is?
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 Report provides an interesting picture. On the way out are the following jobs:
1. Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks
2. Client information and Customer service workers
3. Data entry clerks
4. Administrative and executive secretaries
5. Vehicle, window, laundry and other hand cleaning workers
6. Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical
7. Insurance underwriters
8. Business Services and Administration managers
9. Assembly and factory workers
10. Accountants and auditors
Seemingly sound choices are:
1. Process automation specialists
2. Data analysts and scientists
3. Social psychologists
4. Management and organizational analysts
5. Business development professionals
6. Big data specialists
7. Assembly and factory workers
8. Compliance Officers
9. Chemists and chemical laboratory scientists
10. AI & Machine learning specialists
It may be argued that not all of the jobs in the first list are going to be redundant, they are simply evolving as the world changes in so many ways. That may be true. But not paying attention to the trajectory they are following may well be a recipe for disaster.
The reality is that filling the future workplace pipeline of relevant jobs is everyone’s challenge and opportunity. It starts with individual careers and learning choices, informed by the future and not the past. It extends to our academic and tertiary institutions shaping the right kind of learning and development opportunities. It is all about employers taking workforce planning seriously, connecting it solidly with future strategy and investing presciently in reskilling and upskilling to ensure that the ‘right people are in place with the right skills for the right future jobs’.
It is all of our accountability to ensure that we rethink and rewrite our future social contract to underpin a massively transformative movement of learning and change. The future of our economy and our children’s careers depends on it.