‘Hello, my name is Rob and I’m curator at FOTODOK’. We introduce ourselves with our name, immediately followed by what we do for a living. Our work is an important part of our identity: you are what you do. You are, on a personal level, successful, popular or socially engaged? Yet many Dutch people don’t see the value of their professional activities; several survey results show that 30 to 40 % of the working population feels that way about their work. ‘Do we work to live or do we live to work?’ is an issue that often surfaces in many self-help and management books.
Our relation to this complex part of our daily life, that is also tightly interlinked with our globalized society, is about to change. Rapid technological developments, geopolitical developments and free-market principles ensure that the function of working will change drastically in our society. Economists expect that 50% of the jobs as we know them now, will disappear in the next 20 years. It is hard to predict how our working life will look in about ten years.
The future of work is on the agenda worldwide. The 2018 World Economic Forum made it THE priority for the coming years. The Social and Economic Council is also committed to put this topic on the agenda of both politics and employers organizations, so far with little success. What we read in the media about the future of work is mostly about the invading robot army that will make many of our jobs redundant. Almost never about the advantages.
Consultancy Agency Deloitte published a research on the impact of robotics on the labor market in 2014, including a list of professions that are expected to be nonexistent by 2035. That kind of figures often provoke a storm of negative reactions caused by a – in my view unjustified – fear of technological development. It is not unique that certain jobs become superfluous as result of technological development. Before the Industrial Revolution, a large part of the working population produced food in agriculture, livestock, dairy products and fishing. Machinery took over the heavy work and now one farmer can feed 250 people. The workers that were no longer needed in agriculture went to work in the new mills.
Last year Deloitte observed that in 2017 still over 280.000 secondary vocational students were being trained for professions named in their 2014 research, that is for jobs that will disappear soon. In my opinion we forget – led by our fear for change – to rethink the opportunities that these developments offer us for a different type of future.
The Social and Economical Council labeled the four leading forces behind these changes:
- Economical developments; comprising growth, globalization and other structural changes
- Technological developments in ICT, robotization and artificial intelligence
- Demographical and social-cultural developments: changes in population size and composition, ageing and diversity
- Ecology and sustainability of our living environment.
On the brink of these changes, FOTODOK looks in the exhibition Why Work? through the eyes of (inter)national image makers to the socio-economic role of work in our day to day life.
We invite you to explore with us the question: in what form will we shape the future of work, before that future shapes us?
The exhibition ‘Why Work?’ opens 9 March at 17.00hrs.
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Photo: #5890, from the series The Beauty of Serious Work – Andreas Meichsner