The Coming Wave of “Knowledge Worker Day-laborers” (“Where will the jobs be?”, continued)

Day-laborer:
One who works by the day…

Tomorrow morning at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I present my synopsis of Macrowikinomics:  Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  It is a terrific book.  But as I read about the “dark side” of the wikinomics economy, a phrase came to mind that I have not been able to escape.  So – here’s my prediction:

We are becoming a nation, and world, filled with “knowledge worker day-laborers.”

You know what a day-laborer is.  It is a person who shows up at a site where others gather, hoping to be hired for the day.  Traditionally, this is a phrase describing physical laborers, expecially farm laborers.  They show up, early in the morning, on the right street corner, hoping to be hired for the day.

Well, the book Macrowikinomics describes all sorts of ways that companies are using more than just “their employees,” and all sorts of ways that individuals are collaborating on short term projects.  This is all well and good.  But…where will the actual jobs be?  Or, to put it differently, how will people feel secure, confident that they will have work to do for the next day, week, month, decade…?

Conisder these thoughts, from the book:

(re. the “joblessness” of the younger adults, throughout the developed world) – This is a problem of epic proportions…  There is a real danger that the largest, most highly educated cohort of young people in history could become “the lost generation.”

and

The trend for many companies is clear:  if we can do more with fewer, we will…  talent can be inside and outside of firms… Aren’t wikinomics business models the death knell for jobs?

and
The Big Scares (my observations)
• are we becoming  a world of (internet connected and enabled, computer terminal) “day-laborers” – always looking for the next job/assignment/project… with little or no security and continuity?  (in other words – how will people make a living in this brave, new, scary world?)
• Think about this:  IBM – from 399,000 to 100,000 by 2017 (projected cuts in actual employees – their planned “HR transformation program”).

Think about that last item – IBM intends to cut nearly 75% of its jobs, and maybe “hire” many of the same people back on an “as needed basis” for specific tasks/jobs.  “The trend for many companies is clear:  if we can do more with fewer, we will….”

Yes, the wikinomics world is an exciting world of collaboration and multiple breakthroughs.  And the book tries to paint an optimistic picture.  The book says: “We think that there is a stronger case to be made that wikinomics principles help bolster fledgling enterprises by supercharging their innovative capabilities and that small enterprises in turn are the most reliable job creators.”

But I can’t help but think that what we really face is a not-so-brave, not-so-secure world of “Knowledge worker day-laborers,” hanging around their virtual street corners each morning looking for work for the day, facing a very uncertain future.

“This is a problem of epic proportions.”

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