A Journey into the Future of Work

A revolution is occurring in the world of work.

Over the next decade, almost every job will be affected. Some jobs will disappear entirely. New jobs, not even thought of today, will come into being. We can see this happening already, with fields such as retail, entertainment, health care, manufacturing and education being profoundly affected as technology advances. Some of the drivers fuelling this revolution are: automation, robotics, the internet of things, climate change, globalisation and an ageing and increasing population.

Man operating drone

These changes in the world of work have been documented by many futurists, they have been the subject of many conferences and symposia, and their implications have been articulated in an array of commissioned reports.

While the pundits largely agree on the broad drivers and changing landscape of industries and work futures, they are divided on the larger scale effects for societal futures. Some pessimistically predict widespread loss of jobs, an economic disruption, and increasing inequality leading to social unrest. Others see opportunities and changes in work patterns that will make our lives more interesting and fulfilling. All predict changes in the way we work, in the shape of our working lives, and in the skills that we will find increasingly useful.

What will these changes mean for young people? What skills will they need to enter the labour market? And what will they do in these new jobs?

Most of the jobs of the future do not yet exist. That makes it difficult to say exactly what people will need to do to get those jobs. However, the patterns are becoming clear — some skills will continue to be highly rewarded, while others are likely to be taken over by machines.

In this research, we have interviewed eleven experts — people selected from a range of industries and domain areas who are well-placed to see where the future is heading — to create a series of informed perspectives on future work. In the interviews, we asked our experts to talk about trends and skills, but more than this, to provide a grounded view of the future by nominating what sorts of jobs may be created, and how current jobs will change. In this, we aim to provide a snapshot of future job worlds that will bring into sharper relief the possibilities being opened up. The perspective we have developed is both informed, and optimistic.

In preparing for these interviews, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of the literature in order to inform both the selection of the experts, and the questions that form the basis of the interviews. We believe this report adds to our existing knowledge of work futures by pulling together these highly informed experts’ views, focusing their attention not only on trends and potentialities, but also on the specifics of future workplaces. By doing this, we hope to bridge the gap between the policy and practice-focused perspectives found in the literature, and a need for the public, and young people in particular, to gain an insight into what the future might hold, and how they might productively prepare for a rewarding place in it.

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