Nobody knows what the future holds, but that doesn’t keep experts from guessing.
If you have been paying attention to the national discourse on the future of workers’ rights, you will notice a term that appears again and again: “the Future of Work.” This term is used to describe the change in worker-employer relationships as well as the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.
The idea that the Future of Work discussion presents is that over the next decade high-tech jobs will become scarce as robots and AI can perform more functions. In other words, a robot will be able to work more efficiently than a human can. However, more in-depth research proves that this idea is not entirely true.
AI will replace human jobs, but in turn, it will create many more. The World Economic Forum states that AI will have replaced 75 million jobs by 2022 while creating 133 million. In short, jobs will still be numerous, but the industry and type of work will change. Predictably, this will have a massive effect on the future of workers’ rights and thus businesses will have to be prepared and adapt to these changes.
In this post, we will go over different ideas on the future of workers’ rights and how companies can begin strategizing for these changes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the oncoming of automation have caused workers to lose bargaining power. However, this loss in bargaining power has been happening for many years. In 1970 in the United States, 25% of the workforce was a member of a workers’ union, today just 10% of workers belong to unions.
This decrease in union membership has caused high-tech union jobs to become unstable while, conversely, automation is stabilizing the overall number of jobs. So, while the overall number of jobs has increased, they are not necessarily skilled positions.
In turn, this has led to underemployment in workers 20-24 years old. Many young workers (even with college degrees) are working in unskilled positions, such as delivering food, or struggling to tread water as freelancers.
Unions are not generally available for these less-formal positions. Instead, young people have been drawn to less traditional, and far less formal unions that do not collect union dues. These unions provide increased protection for freelancers and promote worker rights activism.
If your company relies on freelance work, it is wise to familiarize yourself with these unions to make sure you understand the goals of modern freelancers in your industry. Most notable is the Freelancers Union, a coalition that has been in operation since 1995.
As more and more young workers choose the path of freelancing to collect income from their skills and trades, unions such as the Freelancers Union will become more prominent. And indeed, they offer more flexibility and freedom to their members than the workers’ unions of old.
While the foundation of workers’ rights is shifting, workers are adjusting to try and regain their bargaining power. However, one thing is certain: companies that offer high wages and benefits to employees will not struggle to find workers as the role of automation continues to increase.
Automation is increasing its footprint. That much is certain. However, whether the human worker’s overall role is decreased remains to be seen.
Right now, experts are predicting two main effects in the near future: first, the shortening of the workweek to three or four days, and second the implementation of Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Many people view these concepts are an unrealistic fantasy, but the reality is that the world’s most progressive nations are already planning to implement these concepts.
However, these concepts are not as straightforward as they may seem.
For example, UBI may increase the wealth gap by reducing the value of a country’s currency and the four-day workweek may seem employees working a few hours longer each workday, reducing their overall happiness.
Of course, these ideas are not imminent. There is currently no movement to either of these concepts at the national level and the discourse surrounding workers’ rights is changing all the time.
While there is no agreed-upon course of action for the future, the coming decades will doubtlessly see profound changes in the work environment and lifestyle of nearly every worker.
Proactive companies will prepare for these changes and craft strategies to give themselves and their workers every advantage.
While it’s true that no one can say for certain the destiny of workers’ rights, that doesn’t stop analysts from guessing.
AI is becoming more prominent and the demand for skilled workers is decreasing, but that does not mean the overall number of jobs has been diminished.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how many workers view their careers and their effect on their lifestyle while bringing the question of “the Future of Work” to the forefront of national discourse.
Whatever the future of workers’ rights, savvy business owners will band together to ensure their business is protected and a desirable company for workers.
One of the best ways to connect with other local businesses is by joining your local chamber of commerce with the Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance (SOCA). SOCA is made up of local chambers of commerce from all over the state of Ohio. Their focus is on keeping costs low for businesses and providing adequate benefits to employers and workers.