Here’s the US unemployment rate over the past ten years from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — hovering around 10% in 2010 and below 4% today. We all know that the robots are coming for our jobs eventually. We all know that there will be another recession eventually. But for now, in the midst of this bizarre political climate, we couldn’t ask for a better economy. The stock market continues to grow, companies are flush with cash that they could invest in R&D to create better products, and unemployment is so low that it may be difficult to recruit census enumerators for 2020 when the average salary is just $15 per hour.
In short, there’s a lot of cash and a lot of jobs out there. But the bubble will eventually burst. Eventually, our friends who work in retail, shipping, manufacturing, data entry, accounting, sales, banking, administration, customer service, law firms, food and so much more — all these people we care about will lose their jobs.
Lots of hand-wringing about what, if anything, will replace those professions. Here’s my take. I think we’re going to see a huge increase in the number of therapists, personal coaches, specialized fitness trainers, fashion advisors, child caregivers, cleaners, dog walkers, senior caregivers, community counselors, and specialized teachers for all sorts of skills throughout all stages of life. I think our obsession with self-improvement is only going to accelerate and that we’ll be willing to pay a lot more money for it.
Just think about retirement homes. Seventy years ago there practically were no retirement communities or senior assisted living centers. Older people either died in their own homes or moved in with their children. That’s still the case for the vast majority of seniors around the world. But in the US, “senior housing and care” is a large and growing industry with major investment and high returns. We can call it the commodification of care. Elder adults (or their children) wanted to pay for their independence, and investors and entrepreneurs saw that there was money to be made. We outsourced care to specialists and we decided to pay for it.
In fact, it’s kind of amazing what we’re willing to pay for these days — even middle and working class folks. Someone to deliver our food from a restaurant, to clean our house, to take care of our children, to instruct us to lift kettle balls, to walk our dogs. Paying for a therapist has become the new normal in big cities, a massive shift from just ten years. In fact, therapy over Skype has become normalized via services like Talk Space and the School of Life. The commodification of care and self-improvement … things we used to attempt ourselves.
Finally, I foresee a significant influx of consultants and trainers working in the inclusion economy. I already sense a high demand for trainers that facilitate workshops for organizations wanting to become more diverse and inclusive. Ongoing outrage over racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination is going to fuel a demand for talented individuals who can help organizations, government agencies, and communities become less discriminatory and more inclusive. It’s the only way forward for a country like ours if we are to survive.
Sure, it’s an optimistic portrayal of the future of work, but it also strikes me as realistic. Anyway, that’s why I like to share these ideas as blog posts because then I look back at them five or ten years later and ask myself what the hell I was thinking. 🙂