Unlike the topography of the country — born out of slow moving glaciers during the last Ice Age — the economic landscape is an ever-changing thing. The trends that come and go can be measured in months rather than millennia, yet their affects can be felt for years to come.
Now that we’re more than half-way through the year, it’s apt timing to look at the latest trends promising to influence the global labor market.
Jobs are going digital
We have the Internet of Things to thank for this growing trend. As we expect greater connectivity between devices, the need to remain in a single location wanes. As a result, remote workers are steadily gaining ground in the labor markets.
According to a 2016 Gallup study, 43% of Americans admit to spending some or all of their time working remotely, using computers and phones to complete their tasks.
Innovation in technology also accounts for the rise of AI automation. The Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology released a study that predicts nearly 47% of jobs in the US will be computerized within the next 10–20 years. Despite the with its recent AI experiment, these tech giants are paving the way for automation in positions that require very little social logic. While cashiers, data entry clerks, and telemarketers may be on the chopping block, medical professionals, financial managers, and educators have little to worry about.
People are spending less time working
Sweden is leading the pack, with some employers embracing a mandatory 6-hour work day compared to the traditional 8-hour day. Those companies that have made the switch, including Toyota and Filimundus, report increased productivity and lower turnover.
It’s a different story in the United States. A recent study finds Americans work as much as 25% more than Europeans. Despite all this extra time spent in front of their desks, they’re getting less done.
The disparity in work days could be attributed to differences in culture, as Europeans generally discourage work from encroaching into their personal lives. Meanwhile, the American dream, though a ragged notion in 2017, still appeals to many people in the States, and they think more time at work will pay off in the end.
Others suggest Americans are working longer hours because of the country’s employment situation. Despite a record-low unemployment rate (at the time this article was written it rests at 4.3%), hourly earnings have declined. Though by no means an American problem, as wage stagnation is felt around the world, America is perhaps less equipped to deal with these changes as their taxes are so low.
Wage losses coincide with involuntary part-time and underemployed workers, forcing many to work multiple jobs just in order to make ends meet. And when they don’t, they’re relying on payday loans to help them pay the bills. No wonder they’re getting less done. Wouldn’t you be less productive if you were tired, pulled in different directions from multiple jobs, and relying on payday loans to get by?
The workforce is splitting
The traditional lower-, middle-, and upper-wage job system is changing. As highly skilled and highly paid positions are on the rise, middle-wage jobs are disappearing. Low skilled workers in low paying positions are taking their place.
As the workforce separates, the wage gap between these classes widens. The Pew Research Center’s study on wealth in American workers finds the net worth of upper-class families almost 70 times that of lower-class families. This is no small gap to mind. It’s the Grand Canyon.
With several more months left in the year, only time will tell how these current trends will evolve and shape the global markets in 2018. It’s certain, however, that these three trends will have a definite impact on the country’s economic landscape.