The Edgy Post-Industrial Economy

Last week, I wrote about the workforce becoming more freelance and the policies that have been proposed to deal with this change.  In this post, I continue the discussion about work in general and more broadly economic trends.

According to the standard measures, the economy is doing ok.  But there are unsettling, even bizarre, trends that make people feel anxious about their economic future.

For example, much has been made about the shift of jobs to China and India – even in popular culture.  About ten years ago there was a movie, Outsourced, about an American who was sent to India to train his replacements.  

But last month, the New York Times had a story that “Chinese Textile Mills Are Now Hiring in Places Where Cotton Was King”.  As manufacturing costs in the US become relatively competitive again with China, Chinese companies are buying American plants and sending their workers here to train Americans on how to do their jobs – jobs that were once in the USA.

I’ve noted before in this blog that the nature of work life is changing in ways that are more fundamental than whether the work is in the US or China or whether you work as a freelancer or in a traditional job.  Ross Perlin pulled together a list of some of these changes in an article in Fast Company magazine.  Its title: “These Are The New Rules of Work: Forget everything you’ve always known about work. The rules have changed.”

Here’s his list:


But it’s not just that the nature of work is changing.  Many people worry that old jobs are disappearing and new ones not being created fast enough to replace the old or that the economy is not just changing, but somehow imploding.  

For example, in the cover story of last month’s issue of the Atlantic Magazine, Derek Thompson provided a thorough analysis of these issues in an article titled “A World Without Work: For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?”


Of course, there are other, more positive responses, to the changes that are happening.

Some workers love the changes, as Karoli Hindriks, who runs a service that identifies global job opportunities, reported in “On-Demand Employment: How Today’s Workers Are Choosing Journeys Over Jobs”.

Finally, and reminiscent of the old phrase “the King is dead; long live the King”, Robin Chase (founder of ZipCar and since then an evangelist for the sharing economy) has written “Bye, Bye Capitalism. We’re Entering the Age of Abundance.  The old model of unwieldy behemoths is giving way to a new one of collaboration. Welcome to the world of Peers.”


© 2015 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved

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