The survey, performed by Morning Consult and commissioned by Amazon, found a majority of those job seekers want to move into new industries to stay relevant.
The United States economy added 1.4 million jobs this August, reducing the unemployment rate to 8.4 percent. That's terrific for the million-plus Americans who found work during these trying times, but this good news is small solace. To date, the unemployment rate remains 4.9 percentage points higher than it was in February. That means more than double the number Americans are unemployed today than when they rang in the New Year.
According to a recent Morning Consult survey, that fact is largely the fault of novel coronavirus—another of 2020's soul-crushing trends. The survey found that about half of today's job seekers are looking as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Survey says! It's still 2020
The survey was commissioned by Amazon in advance of its 2020 Career Day, the mega-corporation's nationwide hiring event. Career Day provides attendees the opportunity to attend fireside chats with career experts, receive one-on-one career coaching, and apply to work at various Amazon positions, while simultaneously filling the company's coffers with resumes. According to Amazon, last year's event saw 17,000 job seekers attend across six U.S. cities. This year, the event has gone digital.
"COVID-19 continues to affect millions of people across the country, and people are eager for the opportunity to get back to work," Beth Galetti, Amazon's senior vice president of human resources, said in a release. "We're continuing to hire people from all backgrounds and at all skill levels, and we're glad to be able to mobilize our team of experienced recruiters and HR professionals to help job seekers across the country learn about opportunities at Amazon and elsewhere."
For the event, Amazon commissioned Morning Consult to take a survey of the changing job hunt dynamics and then posted the highlights on its blog. The results showed that 53 percent of job seekers are on the hunt because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unless you're a prehistoric ice man, frozen in time since the halcyon days 2019, these results will hardly be surprising. Unemployment plunged to unprecedented levels in April of this year, a direct consequence of economic shutdowns enacted to repress the transmission of novel coronavirus. Spotty as they were, those shutdowns may have saved 2.7 million lives; however, many furloughed workers believe those temporary layoffs have become permanent. For others, they have.
Did coronavirus kick start the future of work?
The survey's more interesting findings inform on how job seekers have been approaching their search. About a third of those surveyed believe their current work did not utilize either their skills or training, and 61 percent are actively looking for work in a different industry. Industries singled out include healthcare and technology.
To stay relevant, these job seekers are also seeking opportunities to gain new skills. The survey found that nearly a third of them believe technical skills will a key factor in a successful search. Nearly half would change jobs if their new employer offered upskill training.
These results provide a clue that the pandemic may have accelerated predicted employment trends of the 21st-century. Many experts have warned that automation and other technological advancements have the potential to take millions of jobs from human workers. Kalus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, dubbed this seismic shift the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
As noted by the World Economic Forum in its "The Future of Jobs Report 2018": "There are complex feedback loops between new technology, jobs and skills. New technologies can drive business growth, job creation and demand for specialist skills but they can also displace entire roles when certain tasks become obsolete or automated."
Preparations and prescriptions recommended by these experts have varied. Former Democratic president candidate Andrew Yang proposed a universal basic income. Others, like the World Economic Forum and Kenzie Academy, support innovative education and upskilling efforts to teach workers the hard and soft skills necessary to compete in a tech-driven market.
This forecast looks eerily similar to a post-COVID-19 one. With the pandemic scattering employees to the four winds, and home offices, employers are increasingly turning to technology to survive. Tech-focused companies, like Amazon, are thriving. These companies need workers who can work alongside technology and cultivate the skills machines and AI cannot easily replicate.
This survey suggests that many of today's job seekers have intuited this paradigm shift. Hopefully, the resources and infrastructure will be available to help people develop their capacity and make the post-COVID-19 job market a more promising one.
The American economy may be locked into an unhealthy cycle that only benefits a select few. Is it too late to fix it?
- What will the economy of the future look like? To answer that we must first consider the current trajectory and the ways in which modern capitalism operates, who it benefits, and if it is sustainable.
- In this video, historians, economists, and authors discuss income and wealth inequality, how the American economy grew into the machine that it is today, the pillars of capitalism and how the concept has changed over time, and ways in which the status quo can, and maybe even should, change.
- "It's not that hierarchy is bad," says John Fullerton, founder of Capital Institute, "it's that hierarchy where the top extracts from below is definitely bad and unsustainable." He says that the modern capitalist system works this way, and that it perpetuates the cycle of growing inequality.
COVID-19 may strengthen the case for universal basic income, or an idea like it.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown millions of Americans into unemployment, highlighting the impracticality of living paycheck to paycheck, which a shocking number of Americans must do. Yet pandemic unemployment is just a glimpse of the fallout the US can expect in a future where more and more jobs are automated.
- Is universal basic income the answer? In this video, a range of experts from economists to entrepreneurs and historians explore different facets of basic income, like why we need it, how it's different to welfare, and how we'll pay for it.
- Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former Minister of Finance, explains why he's not in favor of a UBI tax, but rather the creation of a public equity fund: "[T]hese days capital is socially produced ... Take for instance ... the capital stock of Google. To a large extent it is produced by all of us. Every time we search something on the Google search engine, we are adding to the capital stock of Google. This is not just a consumer transaction. So, if capital is socially produced why are the returns to capital privatized? On what basis?"
What's your favorite argument for (or against) UBI? Let us know in the comments!
The pandemic has given us an early glimpse at how truly disruptive the fourth industrial revolution may be, and the measures we'll need to support human dignity.
- The coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for two powerful transformative forces: automation and universal basic income.
- These two intertwined forces will undoubtedly gain steam, writes Frederick Kuo, and the pandemic will hasten the acceptance of them from a scale of decades to years or mere months.
- This crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future could look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
The coronavirus pandemic has sent the global economy into a tailspin posing a twisted choice to humankind between economic survival or our very health. Markets are crashing, numbers of infected people and deaths soaring by the day and a massive part of the global economy forced into a standstill as people shelter in place. Looking out the window, the world still looks the same. The sun is still shining, the leaves still rustle in the wind and birds still chirp merrily as if nothing was amiss. However there is no mistaking a collective sense of mourning that the world is feeling as normal daily routines and freedoms we took for granted have come to a sudden halt. Amidst the constant barrage of gloomy news however, this crisis shall inevitably pass. But the world post-COVID-19 will not be the same; the crisis has acted as a catalyst for powerful transformative forces such as automation and the need for universal basic income, two intertwined forces that will undoubtedly gain steam.
COVID-19 will expedite automation
As the mobility of human beings grinds to a halt due to public health directives and fears of infection, our need for food, resources and social connection has forced us to increasingly rely on technology to fill urgent gaps. In the United States, Amazon is seizing this opportunity to further entrench its domination, while in China, robots are being deployed to serve those in quarantine. In a world where fear of contact with other humans has become pervasive, businesses that can adapt quickly and significantly automate their supply lines and cut points of human contact stand to thrive in this new market.
Whereas before this crisis, the need for automation was mainly driven by the desire for increased profits and improved efficiency, the momentous shift in public consciousness today regarding simple human contact may make automation almost a necessity for many businesses to survive. When humans trust a robot to handle or deliver their food or goods more than they trust another human, or when crowded workplaces present public health hazards, jobs for humans will be unceremoniously eliminated. Given existing technologies, experts have estimated 36 million jobs may be vulnerable, ranging from trucking and delivery to food service and repetitive white collar jobs, the labor market may face a significant restructure driven by new technology and a radically altered market for those technologies. In a recent survey conducted by auditing firm Ernst & Young, more than half of company bosses throughout 45 countries had begun implementing existing plans to fast track automation.
This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months.
The crisis of unemployment has become real for tens of millions locked down around the world. Although this phase is likely to be temporary with normality expected to return by the third quarter, the process of entrenching automation in our daily lives will be radically pushed forward. This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months. In Seattle, Amazon has pioneered Amazon Go, a small grocery that relies on cameras and sensors to charge customers for what they buy instead of a checkout line. With Amazon already in control of a major grocery chain, Whole Foods, one could imagine that this little, fully automated store could serve as a template for a nationwide expansion of this technology, thus reducing the once-vital role of the cashier nearly overnight. Similar rollouts of automation models will likely follow in the coming years, affecting warehouse employees, delivery people, food service personnel and more.
Mainstream acceptance of UBI
In early 2019, Andrew Yang began gaining news coverage regarding the central theme of his presidential campaign: $1,000 a month in universal basic income (UBI) dispersed to every American. His primary argument for the necessity of this safety net rested on the belief that the coming age of automation was about to inundate vast scores of our current jobs with a shrinking percentage of elite tech corporations gobbling up more and more of the profit. When Yang first introduced his vision, it seemed to belong to a remote dystopian future with little relevance to the booming economy and low unemployment figures that was the reality until only weeks ago. On the right, he was lambasted as a communist seeking to turn American citizens into dependents to the state. On the left, his ideas were dismissed as other Democratic hopefuls touted the Green New Deal and job programs.
Fast forward to today and Andrew Yang's UBI theory has moved straight into the forefront. Trump, perhaps cognizant that the "Yang Gang" pulled a great deal of support from his own supporters, quickly recognized the popularity of his ideas and the need to provide supplemental income to Americans as shelter-in-place directives began to take hold throughout the country. The massive $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus will provide every American earning $75,000 or less, regardless of current employment, a check of $1,200 per person and $500 per child for the duration of the crisis. There has been little debate over the necessity of this measure because it has proven to be widely popular to the public, regardless of political standing. It lifts some of the immediate and pressing need to work and helps take some of the edge off from isolating at home, thus contributing to a quicker resolution of this health crisis by sending fewer people out into the streets.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
Although the stimulus package is a stopgap measure to deal with this crisis, its absolute necessity during this crisis has validated Yang's prophetic vision of a dystopian future where work no longer becomes possible for huge swathes of the American people. The reality is that the after effects of this crisis will be felt for at least months after the pandemic ends. There is little security for either the business owners or employees of food service businesses, bars, hair and nail salons and essentially any business that requires large crowds of people to gather and interact. To the initial detractors of UBI who argued that the program would breed laziness and a welfare state, the reality is that for most workers thrown into the sea of uncertainty, receiving a stimulus check will provide a small lifeline but will ultimately be of little solace to individuals who are accustomed to earning far more and who derive a sense of pride and satisfaction from their jobs. For most of those impacted by loss of employment, supplemental income in the form of a UBI helps take the edge off but it is ultimately no replacement for having a job or business.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure. Automation and artificial intelligence are coming and will significantly alter the way we work, shop, eat and socialize. As society experiences the disruptive force of technology and draws on our collective experiences fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, UBI may become a permanent fixture of our political economy as well.
Continuing the countdown, Big Think's seventh most popular video of 2019 explains why universal basic income will hurt the 99%, and make the 1% even richer.
- Big Think's #7 most popular video of 2019 features Douglas Rushkoff, who says universal basic income is a band-aid solution that will not solve wealth inequality.
- Funneling money to the 99% perpetuates their roles as consumers, pumping money straight back up to the 1% at the top of the pyramid.
- Rushkoff suggests universal basic assets instead, so that the people at the bottom of the pyramid can own some means of production and participate in the profits of mega-rich companies.