The Future of Work in the Twenty-First Century
The institutional nature of work has changed dramatically in over the last 300 years and there is no reason to assume that change will cease in the twenty-first century. This article criticizes the theoretical basis for some previous confident predictions, including de-skilling (Marx), and massive reductions in the extent of the working day (Keynes). It is argued here that further increases in the complexity and knowledge-intensity of work under capitalism are likely, although not inevitable. Some implications of growing complexity, for work and the employment contract, are considered. Raising the question of possible asymmetries between labor and capital, their role in generating future increases in inequality is addressed. On the other hand, growing complexity may lead to radical changes in the employment contract and its evolution into a form of quasi-self-employment. But in an increasingly knowledge-intensive system, those with inadequate training or skills may be left behind. Compensatory policy measures such as a guaranteed basic income and wealth redistribution remain on the agenda.