New America and Bloomberg today released the findings from a yearlong report produced by Shift: The Commission on Work, Workers and Technology, formed by both organizations one year ago to study the future of work in America. More than 100 leaders in business, technology, policy and academia took part in Shift's scenario planning sessions, and the Commission surveyed over a thousand American workers about their expectations for work. It also conducted multiple focus groups with workers.
The Commission outlined four core scenarios that could play out in the next 10 to 20 years, each reflecting whether there will be more or less work, and whether work will exist in the form of jobs or fragmented into "tasks." The report concluded that any of these four scenarios could work out well or poorly for America, depending on the response of leaders and communities. The report also concluded that most workers value certainty over making more money, and that society must provide new pathways to stability in work while empowering people to reap the rewards of risks taken.
"Capitalism has brought opportunity to billions of people around the world, and today the poorest Americans have higher living standards than the richest Americans in the 19th century," said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City. "At the same time, disruptions at the heart of innovation also present challenges to workers whose skills are rendered obsolete. We need to give careful analysis to the shape of technological change and what it will mean for society – rather than the fear and wild speculation permeating the discussion today."
The Shift Commission report also concluded that:
- Employers' central role in society needs a re-examination. If large employers are no longer islands of security and stability, what will replace them? The report concluded that we must explore alternative arrangements: networks of small businesses, modern guilds, worker associations, and entrepreneurship training, while at the same time facilitating new ways to administer worker benefits.
- The future of work fails to align neatly with traditional political coalitions. The report concluded that the effects of technology are a mismatch for the usual left-right continuum. For the first time, automated systems could affect prospects for people in every demographic and skill level.
- We must focus on older workers. It's tempting to imagine the future of work centered on millennials. According to the report though, the fastest-growing segment of the workforce continues to be — and will be for the foreseeable future — older workers.
- The future of work will shape cities and regions. The data shows that the richest cities are pulling away from the rest. Commission members from non-coastal areas and smaller towns pointed to discrepancies in education, technology, access to capital, and networking opportunities. Long-distance moves are on the decline.
The Shift Commission is co-chaired by New America President & CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter and Bloomberg Beta's Roy Bahat, and led by Executive Director Kristin Sharp.
"Right now, wildly varying predictions about automation are driving the debate and we're all waiting to see what happens," said Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO of New America and Co-Chair of Shift. "We need to stop waiting and instead start addressing changes that we can already see happening around us. The strength, health, and wealth of our country and economy depend on it."
You can find the full report here.
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