Does Labor Have a Future?

Jonathan McIntosh || Wikimedia Commons

If there are months or years before you retire, you better pay attention. The reason are several important trends which may significantly affect your profession. The changes will affect the type, the form and the content of work. It will be increasingly performed outside the usual employment contract.

The first trend is the new business models, which use the internet as a platform and steal customers from the year-tested traditional forms of business. In this case, Slovakia has already experienced challenges related to Uber, which makes taxi-drivers desperate. The service is provided by a third party – Uber just connects supply with demand, it does not employ the providers of the service. Taxi drivers defend themselves, organize protests, often point to the unequal terms because of which Uber drivers can better compete and attract customers more effectively. Nevertheless, the technological progress cannot be stopped.

Not only taxi-drivers, but also the drivers of buses and trucks are threatened by a similar trend – which in this case is the development of driverless cars. These can be commercially implemented in the following years. It is not a question whether it will happen or not, but rather when. Millions of professional drivers could say goodbye to their jobs. Airplane pilots could follow in their footsteps.

But that is not everything. The introduction of digitalization and automatization transforms the industrial production into the so-called “smart industry“, where robots are replacing humans in the production process on increasingly bigger scale. The fastest quantity and rate of disappearance of jobs due to this will likely be in the car industry, which carried the Slovak economy in recent years. The fear that car producers will move their factories abroad can be replaced by a different one: that the factories will stay, but you won’t meet a single soul inside as the production will be completely automated.

If you think that these trends won’t affect you, because although you still have plenty time before you retire, or because you are not a blue-collar worker, don’t cheer too soon. The development of artificial intelligence can, in the upcoming years, bring robotization and automatization not only to sectors where manual work with often repeated actions is needed. The AI has the potential to replace non-manual work as well.

This trend of replacing old professions with new ones is not a new thing. Till this day the predictions of “Luddites“ did not manifest mostly because new jobs were created in other sectors. There is a fear that this time, things might be different. The massive abolishment of the majority of current professions may cause half of the current workforce to become unemployed. And there will be no enoguh new jobs for everyone.

This raises two important questions: Who will pay the taxes and when employees will lose their jobs ? And secodnly, what will the people do without a job and without even a chance of finding one? The answer to the first question was already found. We will tax the robots which replaced humans. And what about the people? One of the alternatives is that countries might be forced to introduce a universal minimum income which would be paid to everybody, regardless of whether they work or not. And what will the people who are financially cared for, but don’t have a job, do? It is high time to find the meaning of life in a future world without work.

Translated by Filip Bolčo

Jan Oravec