What sort of work will we be doing in the future?

The nature of employment is changing. Rather than having a career for life, we might now have several, and new technologies are reshaping our workplaces. How do we train our children for jobs that might not exist yet? Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences share their views on education and employment, and think about how we can be prepared for a changing world.

Why are there people who can’t find a job?

Laureate Sir Christopher A. Pissarides considers why there are unemployed people when there are jobs available. Unemployment, he says, is influenced by the economy, so to understand it, we also need to understand the economy. But we also need to understand the unemployed themselves; what assistance or incentives are available to them to help them find work?

“You know that unemployment is influenced by the individual person and what the unemployed themselves do in response to what’s available.”

Can we future-proof ourselves?

Nobel Laureate Robert M. Solow acknowledges that while we’ve always been concerned that technology would create mass-unemployment, the reverse has actually been true. However, he realizes this might not always be the case in the future.

“We’ve no idea what kind of skills you need for ordinary life 30 years from now. But I think the more you know, the more you understand, the easier it is to adapt. The first piece of advice I’d give is improve the educational system and widen it.”

How do we train for jobs that don’t exist yet?

The importance of education is also stressed by Nobel Laureate Myron S. Scholes. The World Economic Forum has indicated that 65% of children entering the primary school system today will end up doing jobs that don’t exist yet.

“How do we change the educational system, so that we as individuals can become more productive, so we can use the robots, and technology, to do the things we can’t do quickly ourselves?”

What’s the secret of career success?

Nobel Laureate Lars Peter Hansen agrees that there’s uncertainty in the employment market of the future. He echoes calls about the importance of education, and says that a diverse set of skills is crucial.

“The nature of jobs changes over time, but the broader skill set you have, the more it puts you in a position to be able to respond to such an environment and to thrive in it.”

Is there a key to being happy at work and at home?

Of course, finding personal fulfilment is not all down to education or employment. While it’s important to work hard, it’s also crucial to find time to allow our minds and bodies to wind down. Nobel Laureate Robert F. Engle III says that he creates his best work when he’s not doing it 100 percent of the time.

“The balance between family and career is one of the most important and most difficult balances people in all professions have to face.”

Is money everything?

Nobel Laureate Bengt Holmström is an expert in contract theory, and has studied what it is that makes for happy employees. He notes that money isn’t always the most important thing when it comes to ensuring our happiness in the workplace.

“You think money’s a driver; people like money. But it turns out it isn’t the only driver by far… There’s also another component, we want to be liked or appreciated.”

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