When we think “gig economy,” we tend to picture an Uber driver or a TaskRabbit tasker rather than a lawyer or a doctor, but in reality, this scrappy economic model — grubbing around for work, all big dreams and bad health insurance — will soon catch up with the bulk of America’s middle class.
Major companies now outsource many of even their most skilled jobs, ditching their in-house lawyers and I.T. support teams in favor of on-demand contractors, paid by the hour. More than 18 million Americans
are now involved in some kind of direct sales or multilevel marketing scheme, shelling out hundreds of dollars on vitamins or juicers or leggings, then frantically attempting to recoup the money by flogging them to friends and neighbors. Economists predict
that by 2027, gig workers of varying descriptions will make up more than half of the work force. An estimated 47 percent of millennials already work in this way.
It certainly feels familiar. Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.
The social contract of work has been erased by an endless series of precarious work hook-ups, where jobs are increasingly just one-night stands, and the opportunity for work security and commitment recedes into a rapidly attenuating past. An endless Black Friday of the soul.
China’s Grueling Formula for Success: 9-9-6
| Li Yuan
links the 996 trend in China – working 9am to 9pm six days a week – to a growing sense that the cultural commitment to overwork is leading to health and psychological issues, there:
One midlevel Huawei executive said he works at least 12 hours a day because he wants to be the best and because he gets compensated for good performance. But he said he will evaluate in three years, when he is 35, whether he can keep going at such a pace.
Alibaba Group Holding is also known for long hours—some say it pioneered the 996 work schedule. Alibaba declined to comment on that, and a spokesman said the company encourages a work-life balance. Founder Jack Ma has acknowledged the company demands more, but also pays more.
“We ask three people to accomplish a job of five people, and pay them for four,” Mr. Ma, Alibaba’s executive chairman, said at a meeting with investors last year.
I don’t think this pace is sustainable, but there is no doubt that entrepreneurial management (or startup culture) culture has a predilection to induce employees to subordinate their personal goals and needs to the company’s ends. Obviously that’s part of what’s going on here. We can expect CEOs and VCs to continue to wag their fingers and tell us we in the US will have to adopt these practices if we want to prevail in this economy, or else.
I found that story thanks to Christopher Mims
, who reviews what he saw and heard at the Wall Street Journal
’s Tech D.Live
conference this week in What’s the Next Big Thing in Tech? It’s Up to Us
. Here’s the mic drop of the conference [emphasis mine]:
In the future, the top jobs are robot engineer and elder caregiver. There’s strong evidence that all routine labor—both physical and mental—is headed toward automation, Mr. [Kai-Fu] Lee of Sinovation Ventures said. This will have profound effects on the nature of work.
While it will certainly take more than five years for the workforce of the future to take shape, it will require a lot of engineers and technicians, mainly for R&D.
But while some people will help automation along, others will resist it. Jobs requiring warmth and compassion will likely still be filled by humans, because the people being cared for don’t want robots in that role. Chief among these occupations will be looking after the world’s elderly.
Not incidentally, Mr. Lee believes that journalism will be among the fields that will be largely automated, so readers should enjoy this column while it lasts.
By the way, it is not at all clear that people don’t want robots to care for them, so don’t expect that job to be reserved for humankind. And that trend will principally be driven by cost decisions by insurers and health companies, not the whims of patients.
In a 2017 survey of farmers by the California Farm Bureau Federation, 55 percent reported labor shortages, and the figure was nearly 70 percent for those who depend on seasonal workers. Wage increases in recent years have not compensated for the shortfall, growers said.
Strawberry operations in California, apple orchards in Washington and dairy farms across the country are struggling with the consequences of a shrinking, aging, foreign-born work force; a crackdown at the border; and the failure of Congress to agree on an immigration overhaul that could provide a more steady source of immigrant labor.
Farmhands who benefited from the last immigration amnesty, in 1986, are now in their 50s and represent just a fraction of today’s field workers. As fewer new immigrants have arrived to work in agriculture, the average age of farmworkers has climbed — to 38 in 2016, according to government data, compared with 31 in 2000.
The result? Large-scale deployments of automation: lettuce cutting and weeding, strawberry harvesting, putting garlic into nets, and dozens of other activities are now being handled by robots. Only delicate fruit and vegetables will be harvested by hand in the near future, as the agricultural sector transitions into a high-robot-density era.
started a fascinating thread
about manager readmes
or user guides
, and then decided to pull it into a blog post (I hate manager READMEs
). The basic idea is for managers to write a document that explains how others – particularly direct reports – should approach interactions with those managers. She’s not down with that approach.
If you want to build trust, you do that by showing up, talking to your team both individually and as a team, and behaving in an ethical, reliable manner. Over, and over, and over again. You don’t get it from writing a doc about how you deserve their trust.
A must read.