The Future of Work and the Promotion of Labor Inequality
August 9, 2020
At times, it seems as if I cheated myself studying humanities (arts / liberal arts). I’d often ask, “Fisayo, why did you go to the University to study French and gender studies without taking a minor in economics, computer science, or information science?” Though, I remembered I was not good at crunching numbers in secondary school and so, I saw humanities as an escape route. More so, the university system in Nigeria (during my bachelor’s) did not allow such combinations; I also never understood what a double major degree could offer me as an undergraduate and a master’s graduate student. Alas, the “Future of Work” is here, and I must say that I know better with the evolving labor market.
The labor market is rapidly changing. New skillsets are in-demand for job seekers and employees to remain on the competitive edge. According to Indeed, the top skills in demand in today’s job market include Cloud computing, Artificial intelligence, Sales leadership, Analysis (data analysis), Mobile app development, People management, Video Production, Audio Production, UX design, SEO/SEM marketing, Blockchain, Industrial design, Animation, and more. However great these skillsets might seem, their demand makes the labor market more fragmented than before.
Likewise, the highest-paying jobs are within the spectrum of science and technology. Slice lists that the 20 highest paying jobs in the world include Anesthesiologist, Surgeon, Physician, Orthodontist, Dentist, CEO, Engineering manager, IT systems manager, Corporate lawyer, Marketing manager, Air traffic controller, Airline captain, Pharmacist, Petroleum engineer, Senior data scientist, Aerospace engineer, Computer hardware engineer, Senior software engineer, College or university professor, and Investment banker. Similarly, Glassdoor’s 2019 survey on the highest paying jobs in the world also reveals the same result as Slice. This data represents an evaluation of the first world nations: the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Germany; it could be somewhat adaptable for mirroring the labor market trends in developing nations as well.
Moreover, Covid-19 makes the twist in the access to the labor market more obvious. Covid-19 came, and it changed the dynamics of the labor market with almost everyone telecommuting (working from home). As a result, people are forced to work from home and at the same time make purchases from the comfort of their homes. With technology being responsible for this, it also informs everyone of the need to be tech-savvy. It is glaring that the increased dependency on technology allows the big tech company to cash out real big. For instance, Zoom was not a widely used video-conferencing tool before the pandemic but now has over 300 million meetings daily meetings holding on the platform as opposed to 10 million daily meetings. Recently, Bloomberg also noted that the big tech companies’ revenue surged. Imagine, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet Inc made a revenue they could have made in six years in just five months.
Also, manufacturing and service jobs are becoming scarcer. Automation is taking over manufacturing and blue-collar jobs gradually disappear with low-skilled individuals drawn into poverty. With the automation in service jobs, physical human relations with customers are fast becoming a thing of the past. In places such as banks, hotels, and department stores across the world, there are self-service machines that are taking over.
The science and technology are making giant strides. Individuals and businesses in technology-related domains are winning big. Unfortunately, it is creating a space to determine who the winners and losers are.
Is the Future of Work inclusive or Promoting Inequality?
Even though we advocate for inclusive institutions and the labor market, we are unfortunately nowhere close to closing the gap in labor market inequality. When you go on job sites, in search of jobs, the highest-paid labor aside the medical-related jobs is the software engineers. Besides, those in the natural and applied sciences who are yet to upskill, face ambushes when they are thrown to the labor market. In universities across the world, humanities are still humanities, and in the applied and natural sciences, the entrance door of research labs across the globe is open to a few. All these then perpetuates the challenge with job mismatch, access to jobs, and a high level of income inequalities.
To think we are overcoming inequality by promoting the capitalistic market situation in the form of a technological and digital advanced society is the greatest disservice we can have in our world today. It would be undoubtedly if, in a couple of years, we have an increase in unemployment. And so, the change in the dynamics of work, begs the question “can everyone be tech or digitally skilled?”