The unknown future of working life

I do not have even the faintest idea of what my work will look like in 20 years’ time. I will be 50 years old, it will be 23 years since I graduated and at least another 20 until I retire. I do not know where, how or with what themes I will be working; whether my closest colleague will be a human or AI; or whether there will be any demand at all for my competence on the labour market.

Fortunately, I am not alone in this. Few of us know what working life will look like in a couple of decades. Professions come and go, tasks and fields change, work is done in different ways and in different conditions than at present. There is a lot of talk about and many visions for the future of working life, but not a lot of actual knowledge.

It is painfully hard to predict the future. Trends might change, development accelerate or wane, and unexpectedly large changes may be just around the corner. One thing is certain: change. The world around us – the world in which each of us have our work career in one way or another – sometimes changes with a speed you can almost feel. For example, think about how just a little way back you touched your first smart phone. A device that has since become the most central thing to our social, professional and private life.  

Even though we do not know how working life will change, we can be sure that it will change. The only way to prepare for a future which is unknown and hard to predict is by making sure that our competence stays on top of the changes. That is why we must ensure that societal structures support the continuous regeneration of knowledge and skills – in individuals, organisations as well as in all of society. The world will be sure to throw us problems to chew on.

Investing in competence must therefore be a top priority in societal decision making both now and in the future. After the cuts in education, we need solid proof that high-quality education and research, equal access to education, and lifelong learning are a key priority also when financial decisions are made.

If the objective is that both Finland as a country as well as the Finnish labour market are to be sustainable and perhaps even blossoming in the future, we need to make concrete changes already today. Opportunities for lifelong learning, flexible labour market security, as well as guidelines for working life that are equal to all – all of these must be constructed in such a way that a good working life is possible for both present and future generations entering the labour market. All of this, regardless of what their world looks like.

Piritta Jokelainen
Senior Specialist
Social Science Professionals (Yhteiskunta-alan korkeakoulutetut ry)

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