stop talking about jobs

Andy McAfee reports in HBR that United Technologies is laying off workers, even though its stock is at an all time high and sales have increased by 35%.

I simply want to point out that if this example is part of any larger trend, then we cannot rely on economic growth to fix our current problems of unemployment or underemployment. Because even for individual companies, economic growth has become so decoupled from employment growth that the former goes up while the latter goes down.

I have been observing for quite some time that most work is getting automated and outsourced, while only complex and creative work remain valued, and therefore wealth-generating for those who do it. The construct of the JOB highlights this problem, because jobs are designed around work that can be copied and workers who can be replaced, but anything that can be reduced to a flowchart will be automated. Relying on the job as society’s main wealth-sharing mechanism is a major mistake in the network era, but one that politicians and many others continue to make. We are entering a post-job economy.

Part of the solution is taking control of our own professional development. Another is developing new systems of wealth exchange, such as the many new models examined at Shareable. But most importantly, we need to change our language as we discuss work, wealth, and economics. We need to stop focusing on job creation and figure out better systems of wealth redistribution for a networked society.

employment opportunities

2 Responses to “stop talking about jobs”

  1. Jay Oza

    In the past, especially after WW II, there was real job creation till the mid 70s. Companies today can grow without creating jobs, but in many cases by eliminating jobs. I don’t see this changing again. You are either a valuable hyper-specialist or a commoditized specialist.

    Professional development is fine but it will tend to make you more of a generalist, and I have not seen any evidence that companies value generalists. I am not sure there are really good solutions here.


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