Tomorrow's Jobs November 2015
Want more free featured content?
Subscribe to Insights in Brief
Recent advances in technology have raised the specter of a global labor market in decline. In a 2013 speech, former US Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers captured the shift in attitude that many economists are experiencing: "Until a few years ago, I didn't think this was a very complicated subject: the Luddites were wrong, and the believers in technology and technological progress were right. I'm not so completely certain now." Today, the percentage of US economic output that sees distribution as wages is at the lowest level since the government began tracking that number. And the percentage of employed US citizens ages 25 to 54 has been decreasing since 2000. Peter Frase—author of Four Futures, an upcoming book about automation—summarizes his view on the future of employment markets by highlighting that "we ought to think about ways to make it easier and better to not be employed."
Other pundits see ways that governments could intervene to improve the employment situation. London School of Economics (London, England) professor Anthony Atkinson points out that governments' decisions about funding research and businesses' choices about which technologies to use have an impact on both income distribution and jobs. And Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, advocates for a guaranteed basic income as one part of a possible solution to employment problems resulting from technological advances. Recently, a number of economists signed an open letter that also points to the need for government involvement. The letter mentions concerns and points to policy needs: "The benefits of this technological surge have been very uneven.... We recommend a set of basic public policy changes in the areas of education, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, trade, immigration, and research.... It's also time to start a conversation about the deeper changes that will be necessary over the longer term." Thomas Frey, a futurist at the DaVinci Institute (Westminster, Colorado), takes a different point of view by trying to identify jobs that will emerge in the future. He has compiled a list of 162 jobs he believes will see creation in the future.