Books & Film

Book Review: The End of Jobs

Can you imagine a world in which there are no jobs? That’s a scenario which is already upon us, argues author and entrepreneur Taylor Pearson in his No. 1 Amazon Business Bestseller, The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom without the 9-5.

Marie Rocher reviews The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson
Should be prescribed reading for scholars, students, educationalists and policy-makers

In retrospect, our parents and grandparents had a cushy time of it – that’s not to say they weren’t hard and disciplined workers, but they operated in a more or less predictable environment in which they were more or less guaranteed a job for life. But the era of company men and women, implies Pearson, is gone.  In the new world of work, we will – all of us – have to think and work harder and smarter if we’re to succeed. But more than that, we need to get our heads around an oftentimes disturbing reality – in the future, there will be no jobs.

But a world without jobs does not imply a world without work – quite the contrary! There may not be jobs, but there will opportunities aplenty, and it’s up to each of us to grab those that come our way and make something of it. Rather than absent-mindedly sticking to the unimaginative 20th Century social script we’ve been fed – go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a degree, apply for jobs – we need to focus on developing our skills, seeking opportunities and building assets (businesses) for ourselves.

The March to Casualisation?

Consider this trend – according to a recently released study, Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce, commissioned by Freelance Union and Elance-o-Desk, there are now 54 million freelance workers in the United States. That’s 34% of the entire US workforce, and they’re contributing a massive US$700 billion to that country’s national economy.

Working for oneself is not just a US trend, though; it’s a global one. In the UK, self-employment has hit a 20-year high, and here in South Africa, it’s estimated that 10% of the workforce is now self-employed (Read more about how freelancing is increasingly becoming a long-term alternative to traditional permanent employment,here). Alarmingly, however, South Africa is lagging behind the other BRICS countries when it comes to freelancing and entrepreneurship, where the figure stands at 11-15%. But that’s not all – despite the mounting evidence that the world of work is undergoing a fundamental shift, South Africans – policy makers, educationalists, job seekers alike – are stubbornly clinging to the (outmoded) job-for-life notion. Casualisation, as it’s termed in South Africa, the use of temporary or part-time workers, is a concept much maligned by the country’s trade unions and much of the workforce. But as the world marches towards a new paradigm, shouldn’t South Africans be changing their tune?

Won’t Tertiary Education Solve Our Unemployment Blues?

South Africa is a country of some 12 million unemployed people*; many students, egged on by politicians and other authority figures, believe that a university education will miraculously conjure them up them a job post-graduation. As a nation, we need to lose the misguided notion that university is a cure-all for unemployment; it’s not. While getting as sound an education as we can possibly afford – paying particular regard to literacy and numeracy – is crucial for our personal and career development, having a tertiary education isn’t always necessary to make a good living. Imagination, innovation, networking and old-fashioned street smarts can make you more money than your next door neighbour with the fancy degree. As Pearson explains, university educated people are now a global commodity. Fifty years ago, having a varsity education was a Unique Selling Proposition which virtually guaranteed a high-paying permanent position in the workforce. Today, Americans and Western Europeans are outsourcing positions requiring certain educations to India, South-East Asia or Eastern Europe for a fraction of the cost of employing people from their own countries. And whilst South Africa – a BRICS nation, along with Brazil, Russia, India and China – should be capitalising on the knowledge outsourcing trend, we’re in danger of losing out altogether, as we continue to jockey for jobs. In the global village, the scarce resource, explains Pearson, is entrepreneurship rather than education. The future belongs to those who can spin gold from their own initiatives.

Who Should Read This Book?

This quick and easy read is helpful to those thinking about venturing out on their own business endeavours. As well as providing motivation and inspiration through real-life case studies, the author provides an excellent argument against ‘playing it safe’ in the traditional job market – as the world of work becomes ever more unpredictable and dynamic, there’s never been a safer path to follow than working for one’s own account!

Key Take-Outs from The End of Jobs

  • Globalisation means we’re not competing to be more knowledgeable than the person down the street, but more knowledgeable than seven billion people around the world
  • Jobs are going to be replaced by software, and you don’t want to be the one with the job – you want to be the one who owns the software
  • Don’t plan your career! Instead, focus on developing skills and pursuing opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship is becoming more accessible just as jobs are becoming more competitive
  • It’s cheaper, easier and safer to start a business than searching for jobs
  • Entrepreneurs don’t need ideas, they need relationships
  • As an entrepreneur, you create your own options instead of choosing from the options presented to you
  • You are a media company!

*According to People Want to Work: Towards Decent Work in South African Supply Chains– Marlese Von Broemdsen, Law, Democracy and Development Journal, Volume 16 (2012).

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