Last week we spent some time exploring the future of the workplace. For this week’s poll, let’s explore a closely related question — the future of work itself.
A century and a half ago, most of us worked on farms. A century ago (or even 50 years ago) most jobs took place on a factory floor. Today’s workforce includes a vast array of occupations in a wide variety of settings. Services and information technology have been the big growth engines for jobs over the past few decades, but there is some reason to doubt whether that will continue.
The people of the future will be richer than the people of today, and therefore will more closely resemble annoying yuppies. Nicer restaurants are more labor-intensive than cheap ones, and the further up the scale you go the more specialized skills (think sommelier) come into play. Annoying yuppies take yoga classes, or even hire personal trainers. Artisanal cheese is more labor-intensive to produce than industrial cheese. More people will hire interior designers and people will get their kitchens redone more often. There will be more personal shoppers and more policemen. People will get fancier haircuts.
This hardly sounds like a model for economic growth, at least in traditional terms. One of the commenters on the piece linked below suggests that such an economy is like everyone making a living scratching everyone else’s back. But is it?
Walter Russel Mead at Via Meadia argues that job growth will increasingly have to come in areas that aren’t easily outsourced or automated. He offers making sense of widely available information as a prime example:
Value added intermediation is the rationale for a whole range of services that entrepreneurs will be building in coming years. You might have a family tech agent that for some reasonable fee reviews and manages your communications life: helping you select the right phone package for your family’s patterns and needs, advising you about major electronic purchases, making sure you get the most out of your equipment and software, serving as your tech back up and troubleshooting. When something goes wrong you don’t call New Delhi; you call the people down the street.
So where will the future jobs come from? Will more of us be personal communications consultants, party planners, and yoga instructors?
Tell us what you think — what sector will experience the most job growth over the next 20 years? In lining out the options shown below, I have relied heavily on a list of high-job-growth sectors from a 2010 piece in Forbes, plus I have added the heading “Personal Services” to cover the Yoga Instructor Economy jobs that Yglesias and Mead described. There is of course the option of “Other” for those who think I’ve completely missed the boat — please elaborate in the comments.
There is also an option for those who believe we won’t see any substantial job growth in ANY sector. Again, if you choose this option, please elaborate.