Poor Job Quality and Low Wages

American job quality has consistently deteriorated since 1979 in four ways:

Stagnation of real income and wage levels;
Dramatic differences in wage inequality;
A prevalence of jobs with low salaries; and
A decline in market income for the average American worker.

Working conditions in some firms, like Amazon, have become so poor that some low-skilled workers have chosen to go on strike. Sharing-economy firms, like Uber and Lyft, have also received their share of criticism from drivers who complain about low pay and poor working conditions.

As job quality deteriorates further and working conditions become poorer, workers will find it more and more difficult to find the time for education, training and reskilling. It is therefore critical to deal with these issues in order to provide workers with the opportunity to prepare for the future of work.

@jonathankolber and @ksharp, you may have thoughts on this discussion. Are there any innovations, whether by companies or governments, we should be aware of that are trying to deal with this problem?

Although I agree with Peter Diamandis on most topics, we have sharply different views about the future of work. I expect automation to decimate many types of work, and harm wages for all but superstars. I see no educational solution to this problem, though education will help some people in the short term. In my view, the only way to avoid significant societal disruption is a viable and sustainable UBI.

Most approaches to UBI are seriously flawed, as I explored in Guaranteed Mirage Income?(https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET2/more/Kolber20160514). The only proposal I’ve seen that addresses all of those concerns is MOUBI by Michael Haines (https://medium.com/@m.haines_81949/a-universal-basic-income-directly-solves-one-problem-only-bc8a212f3d98).

@eperkins and @Abbie, it would be great to get your input on this topic as well.

We’re mapping the innovations companies and governments are already working on to deal with some of the biggest problems in work, such as this one, to help our prize designers determine where and how XPRIZE could add its unique value.

@jonathankolber - Great seeing you here! I still have the PDF of your Celebration Society on my drive.

How early do you think we’ll need to implement UBI? Or alternatively - when do you think we’ll see the worst displacement impact of automation on jobs?


Thank you. I very much enjoyed my visit.

It’s tough to forecast timeframes. I co-authored the Delphic study by Techcast Global (https://jfsdigital.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/JFS212Final(已拖移)-6.pdf). Note, however, that I was part of the minority which expects much greater disruption than do the majority of study participants. They expect humanity to "muddle through’; hence, the title of the article.

I can do no better than cite the four major research groups that are projecting ~40% job displacement. They cluster around the mid-2030s. That seems right to me. Considering the exponential progress of AIs, sensors, and robotics, I’d be shocked if a majority of people in Western democracies are still working by 2050.

People who are thinking we will somehow “muddle through” without a solid UBI in place may not be considering that, during the Great Depression, job losses peaked at “only” 25%. Also, those jobs returned. These won’t. If these displaced workers are to become employed again, they will have to train for new jobs that spin off from technological advances…and those jobs must not be, in whole or in large part, better performed by machines.

I was glad of Andrew Yang’s candidacy for raising awareness of this issue. I doubt his will be the last such candidacy in the US and other Western democracies. But I fear that, absent something like the Michael Haines MOUBI proposal–which does not target anyone to pay for it–all of the proposals for funding UBI will generate enough opposition or maneuvering by those targeted to pay for it that either the proposals fail to be implemented or are implemented in a way that proves ineffective.

@YigalKerszenbaum, @Halal, I’d like to invite you to join this discussion as well.

We’re especially interested in learning more about (potential) solutions to this problem.