Workers everywhere will be affected by accelerating disruptions to the world of work—yet people in different economic positions will be impacted in very different ways, according to The Futures of Work, a groundbreaking new report from Foresight Alliance, a Washington DC-based foresight consultancy.
“There are a tremendous number of studies, forecasts, and scenarios about the future of work,” said Claudia Juech, associate vice president and managing director for Strategic Research at The Rockefeller Foundation. “But not enough focus on the changes that people who have low incomes or are otherwise vulnerable and marginalized may experience. Foresight Alliance’s report aims to help address this research gap by cataloguing the drivers of change for this group, in addition to unpacking their potential effects over the next five years.”
In the sea of current thinking about this urgent topic, The Futures of Work is unique for its breadth—exploring the futures of everyone from white-collar workers in high-income countries to subsistence farmers. “We set out to break down the artificial barriers of income and geography that typically divide foresight in this area. The same forces promise—or threaten—to reshape work everywhere, at all socioeconomic levels,” commented Josh Calder, a partner at Foresight Alliance.
Four broad themes emerged from dozens of expert interviews and the review of hundreds of forecasts on the future of work:
- Software and robotics will reshape work in nearly every industry and region—eliminating some jobs, complementing human workers in other jobs, and creating entirely new jobs. Whether machines ultimately take work from people or work alongside them, considerable turmoil is highly likely.
- Flexible and freelance work structures could speed the destruction of conventional jobs, producing an uncertain mix of insecurity and freedom for workers at every level.
- Workers in lower-income countries will need new paths to secure livelihoods in the face of these disruptive changes, as prior development models centered around rural work and manufacturing are losing their relevance.
- New structures, from income guarantees to new kinds of asset ownership, are being proposed to help ensure a positive future for workers. The Futures of Work evaluates many of the most prominent ideas.
Beyond exploring forecasts in each of these areas in depth, The Futures of Work looks at practical implications for workers, employers, and governments over the next 15 to 20 years.
For a copy of The Futures of Work, visit the Foresight Alliance website.