March 4, 2014
By 2030 four-generation or “4G” workplaces – will become increasingly common as people delay retiring, even into their 80s. Although the role of women in the workplace will strengthen, an increasing divide will mean that while highly-skilled, highly-paid professionals will push for a better work-life balance, others will experience job and income insecurity. Technology will continue to evolve, pervading work environments everywhere, with many routine tasks becoming the domain of the smart algorithm. Multi media “virtual” work presences will become the norm, and as businesses seek additional flexibility, they will decrease the size of their core workforces, instead relying on networks of project-based workers. This is all according to the Future of Work, published this week by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
Whilst the report, which analyses the trends and disruptions shaping the UK’s labour market, makes grim reading for some, there is also good news. The demand for increasingly personalised and bespoke goods and services will lead to a boom in “micropreneurism”, helped by new ICT developments which provide greater access to markets, innovation and cost savings. Large firms will open up their business models, focusing more on the skills and knowledge they can connect to than the skills and knowledge they own. Large companies will increasingly run open R&D programmes, giving individuals and small businesses the opportunity to innovate.
As well as outlining the way employment might develop over the next two decades, the report also projects four possible scenarios for the UK’s economy, and the potential impact on work. These are:
- Forced flexibility (business as usual): Greater business flexibility and innovation in many UK sectors lead to a modest recovery of the UK’s economy, while a sharp rise in flexible working changes the way many do their daily duties.
- The Great Divide: Robust growth occurs, driven by strong high-tech industries – particularly in life and material science industries, but a two-tier society has arisen, with a divide between the haves and have nots.
- Skills Activism: Innovation in technology drives the automation of professional work, prompting an extensive government-led skills programme to re-train those whose jobs are at risk.
- Innovation Adaptation: In a stagnant economy, productivity is improved through a systematic implementation of ICT solutions.
Toby Peyton-Jones, Director of HR for Siemens in the UK and North-West Europe, and a Commissioner at UKCES, said: “Gazing into the future is a dangerous job. If some of predictions of the past had been true, we’d be living in a world with no internet, driving hover-cars and enjoying huge amounts of leisure time.
“Appealing though that scenario may be, we’d be remiss if we didn’t look at the changes shaping our world at the moment and speculate about how these might influence our future. Some things are unstoppable forces – the rise of technology, for example. Other influences are subtle and fragile, yet potentially even more significant. I’d count things like the attitudes and culture of people born in the digital generation amongst these.
“This is one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind and gives us an informed opinion of the way we might all live and work in the future. For example, if four-generation workplaces become commonplace, it will be the first time in human history that this has happened. What are the implications of that? Will we see inter-generational stress and culture clashes or will this prove to be a positive tension that is part of a wider diversity trend that will drive innovation?”
Alongside the main report, there is also an online quiz, which helps to give people an idea of the jobs that might be available in 2030.
The Future of Work was commissioned by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and carried out by Z_Punkt The Foresight Company in conjunction with the Centre for Research in Futures and Innovation at the University of South Wales. It is available to download from https://www.ukces.org.uk/thefutureofwork.