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The future of work: what does this mean and will we be working at 100?

by on October 9, 2015

There’ve been quite a lot of age at work stories this week. One of the most cited is the prediction of ‘futurologist’ Rohit Talwar that a child born today might live to be 120 years old, will work until the age of 100 and could have 10 careers within that time. Widely covered in the web media, as here in The Independent, the warning sounded rather chilling: this article talked about the changing profile of the workforce with an increasing trend of middle-aged people ‘losing their jobs to either robots or young people who are cheaper and have a more intuitive understanding of technology‘ and where ‘the age of those who have become obsolescent will get younger‘.  Naturally, some of us might challenge the age stereotype that youth and an intuitive understanding of technology are necessarily linked.

In The Guardian, the message is that today’s children might have as many as 40 jobs, on the basis that automation will lead to between 30% and 80% of today’s jobs disappearing over the next 10 to 20 years. The education system needs to teach the skills that will be useful in the new ‘sharing’ economic model to make sure pupils are prepared.  In this new sharing economy, the line will be blurred between employment and other money-making activities, such as renting out spare bedrooms via Airbnb.

Thinking ahead to the other end of the age spectrum, the BBC News website asked ‘what jobs could a 100 year old do?’ Amongst the suggestions from Talwar was the notion of a late career change after which people could work as a football stadium steward, a counsellor, a classroom assistant, a building instructor or a chef. Talwar suggests that people will have to spend more time in education well into adulthood in order to re-skill to deal with an altering jobs market.

Well, I found myself wondering how much of this was really new? After all, the ideas of lifelong learning and the portfolio career have been around for quite a while. And though this was largely targeted at today’s childrn, I was particularly interested to note an echo here of the ‘Wearies’ (future older people who can’t afford to retire) who were also targeted as needing to make money through such means as renting out rooms.

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