Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The future of work: is your job safe? | The Economist

Difficulty: 0

- [Narrator] This is the workforce of the future.

Technology is transforming the world of work beyond

all recognition, creating groundbreaking opportunities.

- It's an amazing thing to be living in this digital age.

- But it's also eroding the rights of workers.

- It creates a kind of dog eat dog world.

- [Narrator] Some even fear a dystopian jobless future.

- Technology today could lead to 45%

of current jobs disappearing.

- [Narrator] But are these anxieties overblown?

- The future is about the collaboration

between humans and these technologies.

- [Narrator] How we react to this brave new world

of work today will shape societies for generations to come.

For some people work is where the Wi-Fi is.

In the past two years, Samantha and Justin

have lived and worked in more than 20 countries.

- We started this year in South America.

We lived in Peru, in Santiago, Chile, Bariloche, Argentina.

- [Samantha] Croatia,

Innsbruck, Austria, - Austria.

- [Samantha] Portugal, Italy, Norway.

- [Justin] Which was really pretty.

- [Samantha] And then we were on Reunion Island

for two months.

- [Justin] Off of Madagascar.

- Yes and when we were there everyone was, like,

"How in the world did you find this place?"

- "How did you find this place?"

- [Narrator] Nut throughout their travels,

Justin and Samantha have each been holding down a job.

He runs a digital creative agency

and she works for a California based startup.

They're a very modern carnation of a very old idea.

They're digital nomads.

- Thank you.

- [Narrator] Today, people working remotely around the globe

like this number in the millions.

- A lot of people that define themselves as digital nomads

move around very, very frequently.

But we typically move around at least once a month.

- [Narrator] The couple say the extraordinary

recent advances in digital technology

allow them to keep exploring the world

without compromising their careers.

- [Justin] We rent an apartment, we set up an office,

we're not on vacation.

We live pretty normal lives.

And so it gives us the opportunity to kind of

integrate and become locals.

And try on different flavors of life.

- [Narrator] There are down sides to this liberating

grand tour of new cultures and horizons.

Digital nomads sometimes have to be more nomadic

than they might like.

- [Samantha[ Just out of Curiosity,

I wonder what the Visa policy is.

- [Narrator] Location independent workers

as they're also known often travel on tourist Visas

and are usually restricted to a maximum

of a few months in each country.

- So, Fiji, we need to go to so that we can

get out of New Zealand before we violate their Visa policy.

- [Narrator] But some countries are going out of their way

to attract this new breed of global worker.

Estonia is about to launch a special Visa,

allowing them to stay for a year.

With other countries set to follow suit,

some predict there could be a billion

location independent workers by 2035.

For those with no ties, it all points to an increasingly

borderless brave new world of work

centered around the digital revolution.

- [Justin] And it sounds extravagant.

But we don't need much to be able to work and be productive.

If you're smart about it, I think that travel

can be a long term sustainable lifestyle.

And it's not that crazy.

- [Narrator] Of the more than 60 million Americans who work

over 50 million are employees.

They work for somebody else.

- [Narrator] In the middle of the 20th century,

many workers in the rich world,

expected a job for life in one place.

But today frequent job changes are not unusual

and 70% of professionals around the globe

do some work remotely.

These seismic changes are leading to continual reinventions

of that most traditional workplace, the office.

In San Francisco, entrepreneur Frank Boulier

is starting his daily journey to work.

- Have to move from my room, go down the stairs

to my office space.

I would say it's a dream commute, yeah.

- [Narrator] Frank's part of an emerging trend,

living and working with other people in the same place.

- When I move from one space to the other space

I switch from living to working.

- [Narrator] The space, run by a company called Roam

includes meeting rooms, relaxation areas

and even a cocktail bar.

It caters to the more exclusive end

of the global coworking market.

- You get to meet amazing people

from all across the world and I find that exciting.

The vibe is less office,

more professional commune.

And the residents are glad at the chance

for some digital detox.

- We're all tethered to our cell phones

and we're all tethered to technology

and I think that what's unique about Roam

is that it builds community and it builds

a communal living style that allows us

sort of to unplug at times.

- [Narrator] This kind of communal living might have

niche appeal right now but 2.3 million people worldwide

already share coworking spaces and there are signs

these make for more productive workers.

The Harvard Business Review found that nearly

nine out of 10 coworkers felt happier

than in their previous place of work.

And over 80% felt more engaged and motivated.

- I've never been more productive

even though I do less hours.

Would I ever go back to traditional corporate nine to five?


- [Narrator] Technology is also changing how people

work and live in poorer countries.

Kibera, Kenya, Africa's largest slum.

Work here is scarce.

The average wage is less than two dollars a day.

Joseph Kamau grew up here.

- This is my first computer.

- [Narrator] Two years ago he was scraping by

as a street hawker selling food.

But today, Joseph is making a new living

as a paid up member of the global gig economy,

the labor market where self employed workers

are paid to do short term freelance tasks.

- For me, a person living here in Kibera

how would I have gotten a job for a person in America?

- [Narrator] He gets up to 10 part time jobs a week

entering data for clients based all around the world.

- It's an amazing thing to be living in this digital age.

- [Narrator] Joseph works in arguably the fastest growing

segment of the gig economy known as The Human Cloud.

Some of the jobs that used to be done

by white collar workers in wealthier countries

are now broken down into individual tasks.

These are advertised online and carried out

by remote workers scattered across the globe.

This Human Cloud industry is worth an estimated

$50 billion dollars a year.

Now the Kenyan Government is training one million

young people for this new digital workforce.

And helping them is the outsourcing firm Samasource.

- Brands have included Google, eBay and Microsoft.

- [Narrators] Freelancers here work on a range

of digital services including image tagging

for artificial intelligence.

- [Woman] We're training cars to drive themselves.

- I know, right? - Yeah, it's funny.

I don't even have a car but we are working

on projects on self driving different cars.

- [Narrator] Some fear that the flow of digital service jobs

from rich countries to poorer ones

could push down wages globally.

But for many people here the new opportunities

offer a way out of poverty.

- I mean, someone sitting in the U.S. might say

a job like this is not paying a living wage

but for us it really gives us an opportunity

to be able to bring some of these young people

into the digital age and the digital economy.

- [Narrator] Since working in The Human Cloud,

Joseph has been able to move his family out of the slum.

- I'm gonna join university next semester.

I'm gonna do computer science, my dream course.

And, yeah.

- [Narrator] In wealthier countries,

some workers see the gig economy

as less of an opportunity and more of a threat.

Max Dewherst is a delivery cyclist

for a British courier firm

who campaigns for workers' rights.

- How many jobs am I gonna do today?

Am I gonna do 18 jobs or 30 jobs?

On days when it's very slow

we're not gonna make enough money to live.

- [Narrator] Many online platforms, those intermediaries

between customers and gig workers don't cap the number

of freelances that clock on each day.

This can flood the market, ramping up competition

and slashing earnings.

- It creates a kind of dog eat dog world

and a very competitive world amongst the workforce.

- [Narrator] Some competition amongst workers

is healthy for consumers.

But Max has a more fundamental complaint,

that basic employment rights such as sick pay

and job protection are denied to most gig economy workers.

- They don't have any ability

to set the price of their labor.

They don't have any ability to negotiate with the client.

They have zero protection.

Of course people like flexibility

but that shouldn't come at the expense

of everything that's ever been fought for

for the last 200 years.

- [Man] Those people have money.

They have millions in their accounts.

- [Narrator] Max continues that fight as Vice President

of The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

- And I said, well, it's only impossible until we win.

- [Narrator] The union is mounting legal challenges

against large companies operating in the gig economy.

- We've taken a number of courier companies to Tribunal

from CitySprint, eCourier, Addison Lee and Excel

and now we're taking on delivery as well.

- [Narrator] To critics like Max the lack of rights

offered to workers in the gig economy by big contractors

is rapacious capitalism that will increase inequality.

- There are loads and loads of people

on these bogus contracts.

We see it more and more spreading into other sectors,

cleaning, retail, banking.

And that's very worrying.

- [Narrator] Amid heightened concerns about job security

some workers are facing new pressures

to become more efficient and productive.

But what lengths is it acceptable for companies

to go to to achieve this?

In Boston, Massachusetts workers at this firm

are being closely watched.

Their every conversation is analyzed.

Their every move monitored.

- This is our Humanyze sociometric badge.

- [Narrator] Their employer, Humanyze has designed

surveillance technology to gather data

about how they spend their time at work.

- So, it knows if I'm speaking or not speaking.

It knows if I'm moving, whether I'm walking around

or just sitting at my desk during the day.

It knows generally where I am in the office

and it also can tell my proximity

to other people wearing badges.

- [Narrator] Information from employees' emails

and calendars is integrated

with data collected by their badges.

- We have a number of sensors in them,

Bluetooth that's able to do location in the office.

Microphones look at how much I talk.

Motion sensor to look at posture, overall activity levels.

- [Narrator] The company says it uses this data

to improve the productivity of it's workers

and their work environment.

- I see interactions within my team, how many of my

teammates did I interact with in a week or a month?

The same gender or the other gender.

And I can see my dominance in conversations.

The green is my speaking time versus the blue

which is when I'm listening.

I use this data as a way

to optimize my work experience.

- [Narrator] Humanyze sells its surveillance technology

to companies around the globe.

And with more than 10,000 people

now wearing it's badges worldwide,

business is starting to boom.

- Because now we have all this quantitative data coming in,

we're able to understand at an unprecedented level.

- [Narrator] This kind of surveillance technology

is raising fears about workers' welfare

and rights to privacy.

A British report found that 70% of workers

believe workplace monitoring will become

more common in the future.

Over 60% believe it will fuel distrust and discrimination.

Humanyze says it anonymizes and aggregates data

and doesn't record the content of conversations.

But other tech companies are developing ever more

intrusive ways to monitor workforces,

including micro chipping staff and photographing them

at their desks using webcams.

- I mean, there's legitimate concerns

around this kind of data when it comes to, for example,

could your boss look at what your doing

minute by minute in the organization.

Can they look at what you're writing in emails

and things like that?

At some point someone will do the wrong thing

with this kind of data.

- [Narrator] But in the minds of many people

there's an even greater threat

to the workforce of the future.

And it comes from a new breed of worker,

one that is relentlessly efficient,

works round the clock and never complains.

Robots and artificial intelligence

are increasingly part of many industries.

Machines will soon take the wheel from truck drivers.

And companies are turning to new types of robots

for mass production of food.

- New worries about robots taking jobs.

- [Narrator] Automation is set to cause

mass disruption to working lives.

- [Reporter] As artificial intelligence

and automation grow by leaps and bounds.

- Could lead to 45% of current jobs disappearing.

- [Narrator] But how justified is this wave

of automation anxiety sweeping across the world?

Are hundreds of millions of workers

really heading for a jobless future?

In a warehouse in Southern England, the dystopian vision

of a fully automated future appears to have arrived.

This swarm of robots is packing groceries for British firm

Ocado, one of the world's most

technologically advanced online retailers.

Here, collaboration is key.

- These robots are being orchestrated

by a sophisticated piece of machine learning.

It's a bit like an air traffic control system.

They collaborate with one another, so, if a robot

wants to pick a bin that's fourth down

in a given stack of bins, it just gets three

of it's friends or colleagues to move the top three bins

out of the way and then it grabs the one it wants.

- [Narrator] But the robots here aren't working together

to replace humans, they're working with them.

The robots take containers of products to pick stations

where people put the orders together.

- I think the job is a lot less taxing on us physically.

The robots themselves are very efficient.

So, they take a lot of the grunt work out.

They're our little helpers.

- [Narrator] What's more, Ocado say these robots

have actually created more jobs at the company

than existed before.

- None of the 13,000 people that work for Ocado

would have a job, myself included,

if it wasn't for what we do with technology and automation.

As we've found new ways to automate processes,

the number of people working for Ocado

has only ever increased

because of the ongoing growth of the business.

- [Narrator] A growing body of research

suggests artificial intelligence and machines

could create at least as many jobs as they displace.

One report estimates that while 75 million jobs

will be lost globally by 2022,

there could be 133 million new ones.

- We are on a journey to go on finding ways

to add automation but it's about teaching people

to be more adaptable in terms of their jobs

and their skill sets because the future is about

the collaboration between humans and these technologies.

- [Narrator] Disruption to working lives is inevitable.

And insecurities will persist.

How bosses, workers and governments

respond to these challenges

will determine whether this new working landscape

lives up to it's enormous promise.

The Description of The future of work: is your job safe? | The Economist