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Economic futures: The future of work – Five game changers

We are living through a transition to the Next Digital Economy, in which much of our economic activity may become digitally intermediated, customized, on demand, and globally distributed. As a result, the models for production and consumption of goods and services are shifting, which could affect both the amount and the nature of work.
As a broad suite of technologies – such as task-based platforms, telepresence, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain – mature and combine, they are poised to have a particularly disruptive impact on employment and the experience of work.
This paper explores five key game changers for the future of work. A game changer is a significant shift in the way we think about or do something. Each section describes the basic elements of the game changer and identifies implications for public policy.
Work moves from being long-term and time-based to temporary and task based. In a globally competitive labour market where many people are paid by the task, how can governments ensure that minimum wage and employment standards are met, and social support systems are effective?
AI and the automation of tasks could put people out of work long before technologies replace entire jobs. How would people cope with reskilling and job loss when tasks could replace jobs as the basic unit of work and are being automated across all sectors?
AI decreases the scarcity of knowledge workers, potentially allowing jobless growth in knowledge industries. If knowledge and some forms of intelligence can be replicated as needed, what might happen to cognitive labour and ‘thinking’ professions in the future?
Combined digital technologies could reduce the need for human intermediaries who provide trust and security. What might happen if technology eliminates human transactional roles from the workforce?
Where people work and earn may not be where they live and spend. What might happen to taxation, social benefits, and the secondary economy when a person can live anywhere in the world but work in Canada, or vice-versa?
Exploring these changes can help identify potential challenges and opportunities, which provides the foundation for a productive dialogue on future-oriented policy.