the fu­ture of... work

Think less se­cu­rity, more The Big Le­bowski.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - THE FUTURE OF - Words by Sam Cole­man

LLabour ex­trac­tion: we’d cer­tainly love to know that such a thing will be made ob­so­lete in the fu­ture. We’d be play­ing on holodecks for leisure and wouldn’t want for ma­te­ri­al­ism be­cause our ba­sic needs would be met. Fair­ness and equal­ity would be the cur­rency of sta­tus.

Okay, that utopian ideal looks re­ally far away from our pre­sent balance sheet, as the haves have more and the have-nots get less (the global one per­cent just man­aged to have more wealth than the 99 per­cent com­bined. Snap, cake eaters!). Our near abroad for work looks longer and more un­cer­tain with the only com­fort that less is the new more. Let us ex­plain.

For starters, we’ll be work­ing longer, far past the tra­di­tional re­tire­ment age of 65. Aus­tralia has al­ready amended a law that al­lows re­tire­ment to be post­poned un­til 70, a re­al­ity that is in line with longer life ex­pectancy. Af­ter all, re­tire­ment wasn’t sup­posed to be a 30–40 year plan, but a 15–20 one: med­i­cal ad­vances have changed the dy­namic as lower birth de­mo­graph­ics have screwed down, trans­lat­ing into more of a bur­den on the earn­ing gen­er­a­tion. Work­ing un­til 100? Not out of the ques­tion.

The sec­ond as­pect of our work lives will be a far greater de­gree of labour flex­i­bil­ity: there will be fewer tra­di­tional jobs, as firms hire for skills on a project ba­sis. Wel­come to the world of Flex­i­ble Work Ar­range­ment (FWA), which is one of the fastest grow­ing seg­ments in all global economies, but es­pe­cially ones that are rigged in hir­ing and fir­ing. A Man­power Malaysia re­port found that 41 per­cent of Asian com­pa­nies had dif­fi­culty sourc­ing tal­ent, and thus are turn­ing to FWA or sim­i­lar so­lu­tions. Out of the study group, Man­power found that 18 out of ev­ery 100 em­ploy­ers are im­ple­ment­ing FWA, and more look to fol­low. The Sin­ga­pore gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced a pro­gramme called Flexi­works!, which en­cour­ages and in­cen­tivises FWA. Putrajaya is also pi­lot­ing sim­i­lar schemes. “There will be more jobs that will re­quire highly adapt­able labour and labour trained for the In­ter­net-based work style,” says Dr Lim Kim Hwa, a labour ex­pert from the Pe­nang In­sti­tute think tank. “The flip side of per­for­mance- and task-based work is that there will be less job se­cu­rity and loy­alty to the in­sti­tu­tion,” he notes cau­tiously.

This will help in­tro­duce more women into the work­place—a chal­lenge that Malaysia fares poorly in—and tap Mil­len­nial and Gen X and Y cre­ativ­ity. But it puts an enor­mous bur­den on man­age­ment—in fact, some the­o­rists pre­dict an end to man­age­ment struc­tures and lay­ers, as KPIS and per­for­mance-based re­wards serve projects bet­ter than fin­ger­wag­ging man­agers, cre­at­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­ergy rather than in­sti­tu­tional in­er­tia.

Yes, there’s an app for that The fu­ture of FWA work is upon us, as apps find your tal­ent and get you paid for it. Zaarly The bot­tom-up one, finds ev­ery­thing from clean­ers to pro­gram­mers. Taskrab­bit The early en­trant into the temp-work­sourc­ing game stum­bled, and has now re­vived as a more app-based ex­pe­ri­ence. Makes sense. Wonolo Work. Now. Lo­cally is the length­ened tagline, as this San Fran­cisco startup is chang­ing the game for crowd­sourc­ing work.

Bats**t crazy fu­ture Marx­ist: we’ll get the ma­chines to make them­selves and do ev­ery­thing that we need. But then there’s that pesky AI prob­lem Stephen Hawk­ing warned us all about. *cy­borg arm rests on your shoul­der*

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