Pivoting to a more fair society requires a new social contract between people, government and business — one in which we leave behind no person.
Some believe that full employment will never return. Public policy must change along with the evolving job market, which includes everything from pensions and benefits to education. Even the definition of a job may be altered to fit our new reality.
Employment brings to mind joblessness in the present. Will unemployment recover from today’s lows? We often correlate more productivity with more wealth. Looking ahead, however, automation will reverse the current equation. Even as globalization slows and corrects itself by putting more factories closer to home, I believe those factories will be full of robots, not employees.
With fewer good jobs out there and more people in society, why don’t we regard all the unemployed as self-employed, deserving of a salary until they are self-supporting? The problem with implementing any change in the present system is that, given a fixed economic cake, any help for one group costs another group something. How are we to sustain a growing population busting at the seams during this time of late-stage capitalism? It requires a cost in the form of higher taxation on labor and production. However, as I see it, this solution is problematic because it will create a decline in the latter because of the former’s reduction. Less revenue from fewer taxpayers is counterproductive to society in all sectors.
Often people who are unemployed wish to offer their time and talents to help the community. What we need is more structures for involvement. It is a small investment with a big pay-off in this less tangible but still authentic form of wealth, a new society’s new wealth. We could pay these volunteers not in cash but in professional and personal development or social currency.
On a psychological level, work is necessary for good self-esteem. Well-being is equated with employment.We know that people get a personal reward from their occupations. To me, non-material wealth (a satisfying job) beats material wealth (money) any day.
We all need money, but money is not the whole of wealth. I believe that in tomorrow’s society, we will see wealth as the ability to reduce the need to earn money to pay extra for what you could do yourself: grow food, perform mechanical fixes, build intellectual and material property. A high income would show a dependence on a job or a workplace to earn the income to rent services. Survival will depend on the creative ways that we spend our income. It will no longer be about depending on the job market in the traditional sense. Wealth would be defined as having more control over the decisions that affected well-being and having time to exercise that wealth. As a result, workers would gain new independence to ensure their well-being. A work-life balance will come in its wake with more opportunities for leisure and community (interdependence).
Interdependence is as essential to most people as independence. We all need a well-rounded life with access to sport, recreation, friends and community and the opportunity to share in activities, contribute and give and get without the complication of money. This portends the development of a “new society” that learns how to distribute and promote wealth. No financial benefit is guaranteed to those who take part, but they will gain a great measure of experience in such areas as counseling, welfare work, housing or childcare. This becomes the “real work” of the future to ensure the viability of life.
If it doesn’t work as planned, a black economy may take over as a grassroots anarchy. The self-employed and those in small businesses are likely to be self-interested and lax about controls. In the absence of government, products and services will run amok, perhaps harming the consumer.
Like the worker, the consumer needs protection in a disorderly market. We may trade the legal watchdogs of today for less-concerned social representatives. It would behoove humanity to form these representatives into mutual-help groups: a more dispersed and free-form society will offer more holes for people to fall through.
The society to come will, one must hope, have its caring side, expressed in the social services of the state and the local communities, but it will also be, for many, a lonely and competitive world in which those who do not get on, get left out.
Mutual-help groups are the co-operatives of the misfortunate. The abandoned may find it hard to make their way around a world that will look like a vast library of Google search results. To help them on their way, more information is needed about where to look for assistance. They will need each other, and every encouragement should be given to them to form their co-operatives. Such groups cost no money and require few premises but can offer efficient help, comfort and connections.
The assumption here is that people will have to rely on other people in these co-operatives. There will be a great incentive to form them for need and practicality, no matter the cost and sacrifice. There will be options in the unknown future, and we already have had a taste of them to date. Yes, inequities of income will still plague the populace. But some positivity will arise as people make the best use of resources, both human and raw.