The future of work: is your job safe? | The Economist

[Music] this is the workforce of the future technology is transforming the world of work beyond all recognition creating groundbreaking opportunities it's an amazing thing to be living in this digital age but it's also eroding the rights of workers it creates kind of dog-eat-dog world some even fear a dystopian jobless future technology today could lead to 45% of current jobs disappearing but are these anxieties overblown the future is about the collaboration between humans and these technologies how we react to this brave new world of work today will shape societies for generations to come [Music] [Music] for some people work is where the Wi-Fi is in the past two years Samantha and Justin have lived and worked in more than 20 countries we started this year in South America we lived in Peru in Santiago Chile barolay Argentina Croatia Innsbruck Austria Portugal Italy Norway which was really pretty and then we're on Reunion Island for two month off of Madagascar yes and when we were there everyone was like how in the world did you how did you find this place but throughout their travels Justin and Samantha have each been holding down a job he runs a digital creative agency and she works for a california-based start-up there are very modern incarnation of a very old idea they're digital nomads thank you today people working remotely around the globe like this number in the millions a lot of people that define themselves as digital nomads move around very very frequently but we typically move around at least once a month the couple say the extraordinary recent advances in digital technology allow them to keep exploring the world without compromising their careers we rent an apartment we set up an office we're not on vacation we live pretty normal lives and so it gives us the opportunity to kind of integrate and become locals and try on different flavors of life there are downsides to this liberating Grand Tour of new cultures and horizons digital nomads sometimes have to be more nomadic than they might like just out of curiosity I wonder what the visa policy is location independent workers as they're also known often travel on tourist visas and are usually restricted to a maximum of a few months in each country so Fuji we need to go to so that we can get out of New Zealand yeah well we violate their visa policy yeah but some countries are going out of their way to attract this new breed of global worker Estonia is about to launch a special visa allowing them to stay for a year with other countries set to follow suit some predict there could be a billion location-independent workers by 2035 for those with no ties it all points to an increasingly borderless brave new world of work centered around the digital revolution and it sounds extravagant but we don't need much to be able to work and be productive if you're smart about it I think that travel can be a long-term sustainable lifestyle and it's not that crazy after more than 60 million Americans who work over 50 million are employees they work for somebody else in the middle of the 20th century many workers in the rich world expected a job for life in one place but today frequent job changes are not unusual and 70% of professionals around the globe do some work remotely these seismic changes are leading to continual reinventions of that most traditional workplace the office in San Francisco entrepreneur Frank boulier is starting his daily journey to work you have to move from my room go down the stairs to my off space I would say it's a dream commute yeah Frank's part of an emerging trend living and working with other people in the same place when I moved from one space to the other space I switch from living to working the space run by a company called Rome includes meeting rooms relaxation areas and even a cocktail bar it caters to the more exclusive end of the global co-working market you get to meet amazing people from all across the world and find that exciting the vibe is less office more professional commune and the residents are glad of the chance for some digital detox we're all cell phones other to technology and I think that what do you make about Rome is that it builds community and it builds a communal living style that allows that sort of to unplug at times this kind of communal living might have niche appeal right now but 2.3 million people worldwide already share co-working spaces and there are signs these make for more productive workers the Harvard Business Review found that nearly nine out of ten co-workers felt happier than in their previous place of work and over 80 percent felt more engaged and motivated I've never been more productive like even though I do less hours whatever I go back to traditional corporate nine-to-five no technology is also changing how people work in live in poorer countries Kabira Kenya Africa's largest slum work here is scarce the average wage is less than $2 a day Joseph Kemal grew up here this is my first computer two years ago he was scraping by as a street hawkers selling food but today Joseph is making a new living as a paid-up member of the global gig economy the labor market where self-employed workers are paid to do short-term freelance tasks for me a person living here in Kibera how would I have gotten a job for a person in America he gets up to ten part-time jobs a week entering data for clients based all around the world it's an amazing thing to be living in this digital age Joseph works in arguably the fastest growing segment of the gig economy known as a human cloud some of the jobs that used to be done by white-collar workers in wealthier countries are now broken down into individual tasks these are advertised online and carried out by remote workers scattered across the globe this human cloud industry is worth an estimated 50 billion dollars a year now the Kenyan government is training 1 million young people for this new digital workforce and helping them is the outsourcing firm samasource plans are they included Google eBay and Microsoft freelancers here work on a range of digital services including image tagging for artificial intelligence we're training close to drove themselves we are working on projects on the South some fear that the flow of digital service jobs from rich countries to poorer ones could push down wages globally but for many people here the new opportunities offer a way out of poverty I know someone sitting in the US might say you know a job like this is not paying a living wage but for us it really gives us an opportunity to be able to bring some of these young people into digital age and the digital economy since working in the human cloud joseph has been able to move his family out of the slum I'm gonna join University next semester I'm gonna do computer science my dream cause [Music] in wealthier countries some workers see the gig economy as less of an opportunity and more of a threat Max Dewhurst is a delivery cyclist for a British courier firm who campaigns for workers rights how many jobs am I gonna do today am I gonna do 18 jobs or 30 jobs on days when it's very slow we're not going to make enough money to live many online platforms those intermediaries between customers and gig workers don't cap the number of freelancers that clock on each day this can flood the market ramping up competition and slashing earnings it creates kind of dog-eat-dog world and a very competitive world amongst the workforce some competition amongst workers is healthy for consumers but Max has a more fundamental complaint the basic employment rights such as sick pay and job protection are denied to most gig economy workers they don't have any ability to set the price of their labor they don't have any ability to negotiate with the client they have zero protection of course people like flexibility but that shouldn't come at the expense of everything that's ever been fought for for the last 200 years [Music] [Applause] max continues that fight as vice president of the independent Workers Union of Great Britain [Music] the union is mounting legal challenges against large companies operating in the gig economy we've taken a number of career companies to tribunal and City Spring II Korea Addison Lee and Excel and now we're taking on delivery as well to critics like Max the lack of rights offered to workers in the gig economy by big contractors is rapacious capitalism that will increase inequality there are the loads and those are people on these bogus contracts we see it more and more spreading into other sectors cleaning retail banking and that's very worrying amid heightened concerns about job security some workers are facing new pressures to become more efficient and productive but what lumps is it acceptable for companies to go to to achieve this in Boston Massachusetts workers at this firm are being closely watched their every conversation is analyzed their every move monitored this is our humanized symmetric badge their employer humanise has designed surveillance technology to gather data about how they spend their time at work so it knows if I'm speaking or not speaking and it knows if I'm moving whether I'm walking around or just sitting at my desk during the day it knows generally where I am in the office and it also can tell my proximity to other people wearing badges information from employees emails and calendars is integrated with data collected by their badges we have a number of sensors in them bluetooth that's able to do location the office microphones look at how much I caught motion sensor to look at posture overall activity levels the company says it uses this data to improve the productivity of its workers and their work environment I see interactions within my team how many of my teammates did I interact with in a week or a month the same gender or the other gender I can see my dominance in conversation the green is my speaking time versus the blue which is and I'm listening I use this data as a way to optimize my work experience humanize cells its surveillance technology to companies around the globe and with more than ten thousand people now wearing its badges worldwide business is starting to boom because now we have all this quantitative data coming in we're able to understand at an unprecedented level this kind of surveillance technology is raising fears about workers welfare and rights to privacy a British report found that 70 percent of workers believe workplace monitoring will become more common in the future over 60 percent believe it will fuel distrust and discrimination humanized says it anonymizes and aggregates data and doesn't record the content of conversations but other tech companies are developing ever more intrusive ways to monitor work forces including microchipping staff and photographing them at their desks using webcams [Music] I mean there's legitimate concerns around this kind of data when it comes to it for example could your boss look at what you're doing minute by minute in the organization can they look at what you're writing in emails and things like that at some point someone will do the wrong thing with this kind of data but in the minds of many people there's an even greater threat to the workforce of the future and it comes from a new breed of worker one that is relentlessly efficient works round the clock and never complains robots and artificial intelligence are increasingly part of many industries machines will soon take the wheel from truck drivers and companies are turning to new types of robots for mass production of food new worries about robots taking jobs Automation is set to cause mass disruption to working lives as artificial intelligence and automation grow by leaps and bounds could lead to 45% of current jobs disappearing but how justified is this wave of automation anxiety sweeping across the world are hundreds of millions of workers really heading for a jobless future [Music] in a warehouse in southern England the dystopian vision of a fully automated future appears to have arrived this swarm of robots is packing groceries for British firm Accardo one of the world's most technologically advanced online retailers here collaboration is key these robots are being orchestrated by a sophisticated piece of machine learning it's a bit like an air traffic control system they collaborate with one another so if a robot wants to pick a bin that's fourth down in a given stack of bins it just gets three of its friends or colleagues to move the top three bins out of the way and then it grabs the one it wants but the robots here aren't working together to replace humans they're working with them the robots take containers of products to pick stations where people put the orders together I think the job is a lot less taxing than us physically the robots themselves are very efficient so they take a lot of the grunt work out there there are little helpers what's more a card oh say these robots have actually created more jobs at the company than existed before none of the 13,000 people that work for Accardo would have a job myself included if it wasn't for what we do with technology and automation as we've found new ways to automate processes a number of people working for a card over has only ever increased because the ongoing growth of the business a growing body of research suggests artificial intelligence and machines could create at least as many jobs as they displace one report estimates that while 75 million jobs will be lost globally by 2022 there could be a hundred and thirty three million new ones we are on a journey to go on finding ways to add automation but it's about teaching people to be more adaptable in terms of their jobs and their skill sets because the future is about the collaboration between humans and these technologies disruption to working lives is inevitable and insecurities will persist how bosses workers and governments respond to these challenges will determine whether this new working landscape lives up to its enormous promise [Music] you

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