While there is a lot of chatter about a future without work, we have years, if not decades, before that happens on a massive scale. But between increasing automation, the rise of AI and debates about Universal Basic Income, work and our relationship to it is in flux. The only guarantee about the future of employment is the precarious nature of it. Whether we refer to ourselves as freelancers, consultants or contract workers, we’re in the midst of revolution.
Those working today (and those who haven’t yet started) are all facing a longer and much more twisting path with several reinventions along the way. Careers cobbled together from “slash jobs” will not be uncommon. Designer / barista / vintage dealer? Many of us will take the jobs we can get. Traditional retirement may retire with the boomers.
With near daily news of the latest tech darlings landing VC funding, it seems as if everyone and their grandmothers are starting their own businesses. However, in the U.S., the rate of start-ups has actually been in decline for around thirty years. The Washington Post, referring to the trend as “worrying”, recently reported “Even as American culture has turned entrepreneurs into rock stars, the U.S. economy is producing fewer and fewer of them.”
Start-ups are foundation of a healthy economy, driving growth, innovation and job creation, even though nearly 90% of them fail. Rather than the permanent full-time positions our parents and grandparents enjoyed, the gig economy will be the new normal. Which is why, in the coming years, we’ll need more entrepreneurs and more start-ups. Not just in tech, but in every industry, even as niche, local businesses. In spite of globalization, the ecological and locavore movements are sparking rising consumer interest in spending dollars with small, hyper-local businesses before buying from giant multinationals.