With rapidity never before seen, new knowledge and innovation are reshaping work and the economy in the 21st Century. The integration of biotechnology, robotics and telecommunications will sharply reduce the demand for repetitive, dangerous, or otherwise programmable labor. So far, less-skilled workers have borne the brunt of these changes as their opportunities and income have declined. But so-called “knowledge workers”—those who diagnose, solve or broker solutions to complex problems—now realize that they too can be made technologically obsolescent or replaced more readily by low-wage workers in the global labor market. New employment opportunities in service areas may replace current work, but the attractiveness of such jobs depends upon a distribution of income that enables workers to share in the wealth made possible by new knowledge and technology. Some, like Thomas Friedman, argue that education is the critical ingredient that will empower and prepare knowledge workers for these changes. Others argue that education and human resource policies are window dressing that side step the need for more fundamental labor-driven reorganization of our economy.
To read more from Dan Jacoby, the Harry Bridges Endowed Chair in Labor Studies, on this topic, click here.