Open Future Image The End of the job?
In the 1780s (USA) most people found ways to live independent of regular paid employment. It was the extensive use of fossil fuels that made jobs for all possible. In the last 10 years or so that trend is reversing in developed nations.

In the Developed World are we seeing the End of Jobs?

In the time before industrialisation few people had a regular job. Most people worked for themselves, and at harvest time, or for the development of some community asset, like a church, hall or roadway people would agree to work for wages, sometimes in cash but often for wheat, or meat. Some people may have had a cottage on or near farmland in return for work on the farm as needed, during planting and during the harvest. Nearly all work was family or community centred, and children often came to work with their parents.

With the industrial age, as people moved to cities and having a job became essential, children went to work with the parents as they had always done, but in conditions that were far different. We know the stories about children in mines and factories and the abuse of labour as coal and later on oil became the driving force of industry.

Jobs or No Jobs As this graph shows the number of free agents (unemployed or self employed in today’s terms) steadily declined over 200 years, but starting in the 1990s (In the USA.) that seems to have changed. Many more people, both the young, and the middle aged are finding that there is no regular job for them, but there is irregular, part time, or piece work or short term contract work available.

We’ve all lived in a time when having a job was normal, and if you don’t have one people wonder what’s wrong with you. Politicians are particularly concerned that everyone has a job, partly because that means the economy is working at capacity, and partly because employment reduces the social welfare burden on the state.

Globally we have seen jobs move first to Japan, and more recently to China, but also to Korea and Thailand and India. More recently we are hearing of the development of new high-tech factories in Africa. Relatively unskilled work has moved and is moving to wherever the wages are lowest. That calls the end of the well paid industrial work that was the backbone of middle class incomes, in developed countries for the last 80 years.

Open Future doesn’t expect this trend will change. Governments worry about the loss of jobs, but there’s nothing they can do to reverse the flow, unless they try to isolate the economy from the world. In the short term that would work but in the long term you get an inefficient economy producing "everything" badly, and doing anything particularly well. All those "jobs" are not coming back. Politicians need to discover the 21st Century, and stop trying to rebuild the past.

We need to think about how we can be useful and productive in ways that make the local community better, even if we don’t have a job. Whatever work that needs to be done should be done if we’ve got the people and the skills to do it. Open Future can see limitless work in the community like that. But there’s no paymaster.

Open Future believes the solution is in the creation of local networks which can mobilize people and to do useful things and can find resources in cash or in kind to see that the work is rewarded. In this context even concepts like the minimum wage look redundant.

None of use know how this will work out of the next 50 years. Too many of us have worked in paid jobs that were a waste of our good time and destructive to the environment, and in the end did nothing of real value. Open Future would class selling advertising, and much market research work like that. It turns a dollar, but for what useful purpose?