The digital revolution is hollowing out the workplace, returning us to the days of shuffling hopefuls bidding for daily labour on the Docks.
The Uberisation of everything will soon turn many jobs into contracts – see Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for a glimpse of the future – and many a traditional employer will become a low-overhead gig operation.
This, says IPPR, leaves a generation facing the loss of permanent work with its related hits on security, mental well-being and pay.
While the broader picture looks gloomy, it is the individual stories that will bite. Low pay and insecurity is a short-term disaster, but a life-time of unfulfilling work unrelated to a specialist skill or passion doesn’t sound like much.
Robots might provide the answer as well as the threat. They might be the thing that makes us more human.
The concept of “work” may have to change altogether with productivity and GDP a matter for the machines. What is left could be something more human, co-operative and rewarding all paid for by a “ universal basic income ” which will surely move from the wild reaches of economic fantasy to the central goal of any progressive regime.
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