The end of work

August 4, 2003

Back from holiday. It was great to chill out and learn to ‘do nothing’ for a while. Also doing sports seems to give some good kicks…

Beside reading some Donald Ducks I found Jeremy Rifkin’s: The End of Work as a pretty good eye-opener. The book gives a good overview of the recent few hundred years of industrial revolution and its effects for the labour force. In the past the unemployed workers could find work from other areas of economy after the productivity increases made them redundant. The case has always been the same – it’s more cost effective to invest for capital goods than hire new people.

The scary part is that the cycle has come to an end. There is no more sectors and new ones are not created that will absorb the amount of unskilled, skilled and even middle management people who have lost their jobs. Previously the agriculture, manufacturing, services and the government as the employer of the final resort kept people busy. Unfortunately this is not the case anymore. The economical law used to be that the supply will create the demand and the consumption will increase the economy. Henry Ford raised the salaries for his employees in order to boost his own sales by noting that he needs customers. How about those 7-20 % of the population who are unemployed in developed nations? They do not afford to spend lavishly and they also eat the consumption power of the working population thanks to higher taxes. Not even talking about the demographics: in 2050 almost every second citizen is 65 or more of age…Every second!

The book suggested that the third sector will be the answer for the increased free time. I agree but still I could not be without thinking even further. Today our whole society is built and based on the fact of consumption. ‘ You are what you earn and what you do for living’. But how about a time when the basic needs are satisfied and the basic goods are not the issue anymore. Also working is becoming less important since so many people simply do not have that much to do. Machines and IT takes care of the routines. Already now some 85 % of all work tasks are just some routine processes. What are we going to doing in the future and how are we going to measure our success?

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