Millennials vs. Robots — Who Will Win the Jobs?
Joining the workforce in the age of pizza-delivering drones and self-driving cars is easier said than done, especially for millennials. Available jobs are increasingly going to equally qualified applicants, the types that were once just a thing of Hollywood movies — robots.
Consider the irony: Millennials are coming of age in a world where the one thing they understand better than any other generation — technology — may well be the thing that hurts them most of all.
It’s all part of what leading tech gurus say is an urgent need for society to transform the way it views jobs.
Google co-founder Larry Page, for example, said one antidote for high unemployment is to view employment differently; if people prefer not to work 24/7, “just reduce work time,” but don’t consider part time a negative.
The Google CEO’s work-less, do-better mentality was laid out in a Thursday interview with fellow Google pioneer Sergey Brin conducted by billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.
His take may seem counterintuitive, especially at a time when young people are still struggling to find work in the wake of the recession.
The June jobs report, boasting an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, shows positive signs of economic growth. But the snapshot is not as sunny for young adults. Those between the ages of 18 and 34 have an unemployment rate of 9 percent (higher if you count those who have given up looking) — which leaves many sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
Page acknowledged that people aren’t happy if they have too much idle time, saying that most want to “feel like they are needed” and “have something productive to do.”
But he doesn’t believe the answer to that need is necessarily a job. At least not a full-time one. Recalling a recent discussion with Richard Branson, Page discussed the English business magnate’s solution to companies’ unwillingness to bring on new employees: Hire two part-time workers instead of one full-time worker. Recognizing that it would come at slightly higher costs to employers, Page argued that it would be beneficial for younger people just starting their careers. “At least the young people can have a half-time job rather than no job,” Page said.
As he sees it, it’s what people want — a healthy work-life balance. “Most people like working,” Page said, “but they would also like to have more time with their family or [time to pursue] their own interests.”
No surprise: Most people would like an extra week of vacation. “100 percent of people,” Page said. He challenges the idea that people need to work as much as they do, calling it a “societal problem,” and one that many don’t recognize as a problem.
If you think making such a strong argument that part-time work could be the equal to full time is out-of-the-box thinking, think again. Or think about the coming robot revolution.
“Eventually no human will have to work at all,” said Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works and author of Robotic Nation. “Therefore, we should redesign our society so that everyone is on perpetual vacation.”
From parking lot attendees to toll booth collectors to drugstore cashiers, robotic automated machines are already freeing up more of people’s time.