Around the world almost 300m 15- to 24-year-olds are not working. What has caused this epidemic of joblessness? And what can abate it? … Official figures assembled by the International Labour Organisation say that 75m young people are unemployed, or 6% of all 15- to 24-year-olds. But going by youth inactivity, which includes all those who are neither in work nor education, things look even worse. The OECD, an intergovernmental think-tank, counts 26m young people in the rich world as “NEETS”: not in employment, education or training. A World Bank database compiled from households shows more than 260m young people in developing economies are similarly “inactive”. The Economist calculates that, all told, almost 290m are neither working nor studying: almost a quarter of the planet’s youth (see chart one). … If the figures did not include young women in countries where they are rarely part of the workforce, the rate would be lower; South Asian women account for over a quarter of the world’s inactive youth, though in much of the rich world young women are doing better in the labour force than men. … On the other hand, many of the “employed” young have only informal and intermittent jobs.
Computers seem to be replacing humans across many industries, and we're all getting very nervous. ... But if you want some reason for optimism, visit your local supermarket. ... In a recent research paper called "Dancing With Robots," the economists Frank Levy and Richard Murnane point out that computers replace human workers only when machines meet two key conditions. First, the information necessary to carry out the task must be put in a form that computers can understand, and second, the job must be routine enough that it can be expressed in a series of rules. ... Supermarket checkout machines meet the second of these conditions, but they fail on the first. They lack proper information to do the job a human would do. To put it another way: They can't tell shiitakes from Shinola. Instead of identifying your produce, the machine asks you, the customer, to type in a code for every leafy green in your cart. Many times you'll have to look up the code in an on-screen directory. If a human checker asked you to remind him what that bunch of the oblong yellow fruit in your basket was, you'd ask to see his boss. ... This deficiency extends far beyond the checkout lane.
Rising disability claims may explain America’s shrinking labour force … IN THE early 1980s the distressing persistence of high unemployment in Europe was labelled “Eurosclerosis”. Some now wonder whether “Amerisclerosis” is the right word to describe America’s labour market. It is true that unemployment has slowly dropped from a peak of 10% in late 2009, to 7.3% at present. But this decline overstates the health of the jobs market. … The labour-force participation rate, the share of the working-age population either working or looking for work, has plunged from 66% in 2007 to 63.2% in August, a 35-year low. If those people who have simply dropped out of the labour force were classified as unemployed, the headline jobless rate would be much higher.
The greatest anxiety troubling workers today is embodied in a simple question: How will we humans add value? Popular culture is obsessed by it. Humans, a new series on the AMC network, spins a story from the promise and perils of eerily humanoid robots called synths. That seems to be Hollywood’s 2015 theme of the year. Think of Ex Machina (humanoid robot outsmarts people, kills a man, enters society as a person) or Terminator Genisys (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s humanoid robot must again save the world) or Avengers: Age of Ultron (humanoid robot tries to eradicate humanity) or Chappie (bad guys try to destroy humanoid robot police officer who is reprogrammed to think and feel). The big idea is always the same: For good or ill, machines become just like people—only better. ... Fear of technological unemployment is as old as technology, and it has always been unfounded. Over time and across economies, technology has multiplied jobs and raised living standards more spectacularly than any other force in history, by far. But now growing numbers of economists and technologists wonder if just maybe that trend has run its course. ... How will we humans add value? There is an answer, but so far we’ve mostly been looking for it in the wrong way. The conventional approach has been to ask what kind of work a computer will never be able to do. ... A better strategy is to ask, What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, even if computers could do them?
- Also: Bloomberg - A World Where Man Beats Machine < 5min
- Also: Financial Times - The economic myth of robotics and the robot job-ocalypse < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - We’re Fighting Killer Robots the Wrong Way < 5min
- Also: MIT Technology Review - Rethinking the Manufacturing Robot
- Also: Quartz - Override: A story about the future of work 5-15min
The developed world’s workforce will start to decline next year, threatening future global growth ... Ever since the global financial crisis, economists have groped for reasons to explain why growth in the U.S. and abroad has repeatedly disappointed, citing everything from fiscal austerity to the euro meltdown. They are now coming to realize that one of the stiffest headwinds is also one of the hardest to overcome: demographics. ... For the first time since 1950, their combined working-age population will decline, according to United Nations projections, and by 2050 it will shrink 5%. The ranks of workers will also fall in key emerging markets, such as China and Russia. At the same time the share of these countries’ population over 65 will skyrocket. ... reflects two long-established trends: lengthening lifespans and declining fertility. Yet many of the economic consequences are only now apparent. Simply put, companies are running out of workers, customers or both. In either case, economic growth suffers. As a population ages, what people buy also changes, shifting more demand toward services such as health care and away from durable goods such as cars. ... Demographic forces are assumed to be slow-moving and predictable. By historical standards, though, these aren’t ... it took 80 years for the U.S. median age to rise seven years, to 30, by 1980, and just 34 more to climb another eight, to 38. ... There is no simple answer for how business and government should cope with these changes, since each country is aging at different rates, for different reasons and with different degrees of preparedness.
- Also: Wall Street Journal - 2050: Demographic Destiny
- Also: Quartz - By 2017, one in 17 Japanese will have dementia. Here’s how the country plans to cope < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - Jefferies: Baby Boomers Will Spend Their Retirement Money on Golf and Travel < 5min
- Repeat: Wall Street Journal - Tastes Like Chicken: How to Satisfy the World’s Surging Appetite for Meat 5-15min
Our data-saturated age enables us to examine our work habits and office quirks with a scrutiny that our cubicle-bound forebears could only dream of. Today, on corporate campuses and within university laboratories, psychologists, sociologists and statisticians are devoting themselves to studying everything from team composition to email patterns in order to figure out how to make employees into faster, better and more productive versions of themselves. ... Five years ago, Google — one of the most public proselytizers of how studying workers can transform productivity — became focused on building the perfect team. In the last decade, the tech giant has spent untold millions of dollars measuring nearly every aspect of its employees’ lives. Google’s People Operations department has scrutinized everything from how frequently particular people eat together (the most productive employees tend to build larger networks by rotating dining companions) to which traits the best managers share (unsurprisingly, good communication and avoiding micromanaging is critical; more shocking, this was news to many Google managers). ... No matter how researchers arranged the data, though, it was almost impossible to find patterns — or any evidence that the composition of a team made any difference. ... kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on what are known as ‘‘group norms.’ ... Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals — they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently — but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team. ... noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ ... Second, the good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues. ... to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations.
Paul attempted work on a memoir he had begun some years earlier, but he wasn’t confident that his life story was worth telling at all. He had expected a few consulting gigs to materialize, but each fell through, for one reason or another. A friend told Paul he had to be more entrepreneurial, to create his own opportunities. But Paul didn’t feel like an entrepreneur. He’d spent his life as a company man. ... Wanting to impress his fellow interns and bosses, Paul went to Ralph Lauren and spent his entire projected summer earnings on suits. ... as with any internship, the hope was that Paul would get as much as he gave—that he’d be learning something. Sally asked that Paul prepare to give a few presentations about his career to the other interns. That way, Paul would get a chance to hone his communication skills for an audience decades his junior.