As we step into an increasingly interconnected and technologically driven world, the future of work is undergoing a significant transformation. In years past, esteemed and educated individuals discussed workforce topics such as social media, the rise of the mobile economy, remote work, and well-being. However, the focus has shifted to politics, power, social policy, and their impact on corporate productivity, growth, revenue, and profit.
And these issues have caught my attention as well.
Workforce 2030: Five Key Issues
There’s a saying, “As goes America, so goes the world.” Although an American likely coined it, the phrase holds some truth.
Five key issues affecting the future of work in the United States have grabbed the attention of economists and labor experts worldwide. These issues should also be top of mind for you:
Gun Violence in America
Gun violence is, by extension, workplace violence. Be it a school or a downtown office building, workplace safety has taken on a new dimension due to escalating gun violence in America. Employers must grapple with devastating consequences, such as decreased productivity, high distraction levels, and increased risk. Addressing this issue necessitates a multi-faceted approach, including advocating for stricter gun licensing, promoting mental health awareness, and implementing comprehensive safety protocols. If companies collectively take action on regulatory bills in Washington, DC, they could help address gun violence. With employees returning to the office, the inflection point (rooted in fear and financial risk) may force their hand.
Pursuing reproductive justice is crucial in dismantling stereotypes that limit women’s potential in the workplace. Viewing women as mothers-first stifles corporate creativity and innovation. It’s often racist because many only consider the identity and well-being of white mothers. It can create a culture of fear and perpetuate violence against women who are workers. And all of this exacerbates gender inequality and only values professional contributions from individuals who identify as cisgender men in heteronormative relationships.
The current move away from reproductive freedom also restricts career options, diminishes economic opportunities, and defines individuals by biology rather than skills and passions. Furthermore, it raises questions about the role of non-binary individuals or those unable or unwilling to conceive.
Access to abortion and birth control is currently limited in America, and this trend may spread to other countries. To create a more inclusive work environment, corporations must resist these limitations, use human-centric language with employees, and offer meaningful benefits like abortion and reproductive health benefits, gender-affirming care, parental leave, and childcare support while promoting equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
AI is advancing rapidly, transforming the employment landscape by eliminating jobs across sectors. However, the pace of innovation, job creation, and workforce re-skilling has yet to keep up with AI advancements.
To mitigate potential negative impacts on the job market, we must rethink compensation structures, creatively invest in education, develop effective workforce programs, and foster collaboration between industries to ensure a smooth transition for workers displaced by automation.
The erosion of the middle class and growing wealth inequality pose significant challenges to the future of work. As the rich become richer and the poor struggle to make ends meet, consumer bases shrink, and inflation rises, causing panic among the wealthy as they strive to maintain their status. Do you want more social unrest? Because it’s coming to a workplace near you. Addressing this issue requires systemic changes, including progressive taxation, increased education, healthcare access, transparent compensation structures at work, and equitable wealth distribution policies.
Immigration is a hot-button issue that’s stirring up the whole economic spectrum. Worker visa programs have long been a tangled mess, with high costs and red tape. The COVID-19 pandemic has only turned up the heat on the struggle to bring in and keep professional talent in the U.S.
At the same time, the shrinking professional-class job market and a wave of nationalism have spun an immigration story steeped in misinformation, bias, and xenophobia. Add in the wish of today’s professionals to work remotely — even only across state lines — and things get even trickier, thanks to a web of different labor laws and payroll taxes.
In response, many U.S. companies are trying a revived (but tired) playbook, leaning on contractors and gig workers. But this move is getting a thumbs-down from the IRS and state payroll folks, who want these employment ties to be more official.
This immigration puzzle isn’t just a U.S. thing, either. Countries like Germany, Turkey, the U.K., and Greece are also wrestling with handling a significant increase in immigrants. Frankly, some of their responses leave a lot to be desired.
We need a fresh crop of bold thinkers and problem-solvers to navigate this maze. It includes government officials, workers, hiring managers, HR pros, recruiters, HR data analysts, and tech providers. But so far, I’m still waiting for that to happen.
The Future of Work is Daunting
The global future of work is undeniably complex, with these five trends highlighting the urgency for change. By understanding and addressing these pressing issues, we can create a more inclusive, diverse, and sustainable workforce better equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
That’s the exploration I’m undertaking in my work, and I encourage you to pay attention to these issues, too.