The Future of Jobs: The Economic, Social, and Political Dimension

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Written by Winona Roylance

Presenters: Duane Dickson, Vice Chairman of Deloitte
Lauren Maffeo, Content Editor (GetApp) of Gartner Digital Markets
Antoinette Poschung, Managing Director at Credit Suisse
Moderator: Martin Naville, CEO of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce

Within the last 200 years, the world’s job market has evolved from a straightforward one-career track into a complex system of constant change and uncertainty. What kinds of jobs can we expect in 2050? What will the demand curve be for these jobs? And most importantly, how can we prepare future generations for this non-stop market? With members from the economic, social, and political dimensions working together around the clock to answer these questions, many are hopeful that a solution will found that will help us understand the future of this increasingly complex job landscape. For now, however, only one thing remains certain: while the future of jobs may be uncertain, we must prepare for any and all possibilities.

Industries such as the manufacturing industry will face many challenges in the coming years. With the advancement of technology and new business models, the manufacturing industry is undergoing massive changes in all arenas, especially in production. Duane Dickson, vice chairman of Deloitte, explains how exactly this tech revolution will affect the industry:

Production is becoming more decentralized, stackable, and scalable. As production moves away from the centralized major plants, factories will become more localized and produce materials based on immediate local needs.

The business infrastructure of manufacturing companies is changing. While the core of a company may produce cash flow and outcomes, the edge is where new materials will inevitably be created for technologies such as cars, water systems, and energy systems. And while the edge may bring much uncertainty, they are an essential part to solving many of the mass problems that plague us today, such as the environment and the planet’s ecosystem.

45% of workers in the materials industry is preparing to retire. With nearly half of the materials industry getting ready to retire in the US, Japan, and Europe, many are worried about the future of manufacturing. This is due to the fact that while skills and knowledge can be passed down to a new generation, the artistry and mastery that comes with experience will have to be re-learned by the new workers.
There are several critical skills necessary to working in the manufacturing industry. Skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, platform and systems thinking, persuasion, and technological know-how will be essential to surviving in the new manufacturing industry. Ford, for example, is now hiring more software engineers than engineers who design cars, which shows just how critical it is for workers in all sectors to be tech savvy.

Companies need to change to a more consumer-driven approach. During the infancy of the car manufacturing industry, companies did not pay adequate attention to consumer needs. With other sectors becoming more consumer-centered, however, it is crucial for manufacturing-based companies to listen to the needs of their consumers and pay attention to new statistics, such as the recent trend in environmentally safe cars.

We could experience overall economic inflation and sector deflation simultaneously. With the services component of the GDP at 60-65% and the goods component of the GDP resting at 30-35%, it is possible for the services economy to inflate much faster than the goods economy. This could cause overall inflation in the economy while the manufacturing sector simultaneously experiences deflation, a problem that could cause mass unemployment and employment dislocation.

“If everyone thinks they need to work for the same big companies all of their lives, or that they need to have a big company or a big title somewhere, its going to be harder because that’s not where jobs are going to be.” – Duane Dickson

New technologies and innovations will disrupt the entire economy. Although many fear that technology will ultimately destroy the future of jobs, Antoinette Poschung of Credit Suisse believes in a future of potential.

Innovation has always destroyed jobs, but it has also created new jobs too. While an Oxford study predicts that over the next few decades, 47% of jobs in the US labor market could be eliminated, the fact that new innovations have always managed to create new jobs is encouraging. During the smartphone revolution, for example, many jobs were rendered obsolete, but many more jobs – such as software programming, app development, and smartphone technology creation – was created in its place.

There needs to be a more stable worldwide banking structure. Reports from the World Economic Forum detail how more than 2 billion people in the world today do not have access to financial transaction accounts. Even more unsettling, it is estimated that 200 million micro, small, and medium businesses have unmet financial needs in excess of 3 trillion dollars.

Bigger companies need to become more flexible. Although big companies may have more assets and resources, startups will ultimately be more successful in the age of technology due to their flexibility and innovation. Therefore, big companies need to improve innovation and engagement with employees to increase flexibility and keep up with smaller companies in this new era of technology.

Programs such as Singularity University are working towards grand solutions. Located in San Francisco, Singularity University is a program focused on solving today’s grand global challenges, such as problems with the ecosystem, health, and security. Students of the program work on projects designed to positively impact one billion people in ten years by insuring basic needs are met for all people, improving quality of life, and mitigating future risks.

Emerging technologies have the ability to harness the talents of those with disabilities. With advances in technology such as machine vision, gesture control devices, and emotion recognition succeeding in major advances, people who have been traditionally excluded from the workforce – such as those with disabilities – are benefitting from technology that not only helps them become more competitive in the workforce, but may also render their disabilities obsolete.

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 785 million working-aged individuals (aged 15-59) with disabilities. Of those 785 million, 160 million currently participate in the workforce with an estimated 350 million more individuals able to participate in the coming years as emerging technology continues to advance.

The workforce participation rate of individuals with disabilities is too low. In the United States, the workforce participation rate of individuals with disabilities is at a mere 20%, with the general population rate at 69%. Conversely, the Netherlands has a workforce participation rate of 40% for individuals with disabilities while the general population has a participation rate of 80%. Therefore, it is crucial – and also entirely possible – for workforce participation rates to increase for individuals with disabilities.

The rise of remote work and increased emphasis on diversity offers new ways to harness the abilities of people with disabilities. With remote work sectors such as customer service and freelance expected to grow, workforce participation of individuals with disabilities may be able to increase due to the remote nature of the work.

There are many different kinds of disabilities. The term disability is defined as the intersection between human limitations and social barriers, which encompasses both genetic disorders and physical disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities are competitive candidates for the workforce. With the help of technology, many individuals with disabilities may not only match the performance rate of their able-bodied peers, but may also be able to surpass them with potential super abilities granted by their augmented technology, such as superior strength and flexibility.

SAP has hired more than 100 people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. By creating holistic programs designed specifically for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, SAP has managed to hire over 100 individuals who work in HR, finance, marketing, software testing, and quality control. One individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder even managed to create a patent within one year of employment.

“The rise of remote work coupled with growth in certain sectors and increased emphasis on diversity initiatives offer new ways to harness the talents of people with disabilities.” – Lauren Maffeo

To read or download the rest of the essays from this special report on the Future of Work and Education, download our free app on your favorite device (iStoreGoogle Play, and Amazon Kindle) or click to view the Digital Edition.