Unemployment In the Digital Age: Less a Function of a Poor Economy Than a Society Recalibrating Its

Recalibrate - steel rulerOne way to increase the number of people employed is for some people to choose to work fewer hours. This idea emerges between the lines of the WSJ article  about the impact on employment from Obamacare. More part-time jobs in exchange for fewer full-time jobs may become a future reality in an economy fast making jobs redundant. Already, employment statistics indicate this pattern is occurring. I have argued before that we might never see a return to high, or even acceptable levels of employment in the USA. There simply isn't the need for that many jobs. Modern unemployment is less a function of a poor economy than a society recalibrating to the digital age. The only way more jobs will be created is if fewer people demand to work full time. There are a variety of reasons why individuals may choose to work less. i) They may have, or have access to independent wealth; ii) Their need for a job in the past may have been to qualify for healthcare which they can now gain independently, as the WSJ suggests; iii) Their health may preclude their working full time. There is another reason people in the future may choose to work less: People may value disposable time (tax free) more than they value the extra disposable income they would get (perhaps not that much after taxes) from working longer hours. With so much activity now available to fill free time  - both leisure activities and opportunities for education and self-improvement -- we may see people wanting more of these activities than more money for which they would have to sacrifice their disposable time. I shared some additional thoughts on this new paradigm in a previous blog posting: A New Paradigm to Yield More Time. The post-internet age of increasing job scarcity may see a recalibration of values, not just a recalibration of the economy. We might see people seeking efficient jobs -- jobs that consume a minimum amount of their disposable time for the maximum payment possible. When the desire for pay conflicts with the desire for disposable time, people may be more willing to trade some of their pay for more free time. If this happens, there will be more opportunities for jobs, albeit for jobs that consume less than a full day of working hours. The world that is emerging will look very different from the world of today, not only in terms of new technologies, but also in terms of the things we value and the things we will and won't make sacrifices for. The emergent world of tomorrow is already in its gestation today. We carry it in our bellies, if we would only have the wisdom to see that which has already been conceived. "Who is a wise person?  One who perceives that which has only been conceived." (The Talmud)    

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