We are Widgets: Evolution towards a new social contract

May Day should be more than a public holiday, as employees in the knowledge economy are nothing more than widgets now a days to be replaced when a cheaper alternative comes across invoking Jeff Bezos sentiment . Organizations are high performance teams to execute, deliver and disband and not networks of conversations and aspirations anymore. These days, the pink slip is celebrated as ‘graduating’ and work alumni networks are created are automatically encouraged. The central driving force behind corporate teams at present is adaptability and productivity where permanent jobs are a figment of my Father’s generation. We are in the freelance and sharing economy where medical benefits and spouse/family packages are a thing of the past. Employee welfare is an overhead cost, and hence the vendorization of all non core assets is the norm.

The employee has to be an intrapreneur to drive their own projects, drive revenue and excellence. That’s the only way to revel in the uncertainty and chaos.

The fourth industrial revolution (already under way) is rather scary prospect with Artificial Intelligence taking over cars and jobs. With impending mass unemployment on the anvil as most fresh graduates in the developing world are not employment ready, it’s a huge challenge for the organized labor sector over all globally. And I have not even commented on the unorganized rural sector till now. The rural poor, with impending climate change, is not earning to support families with declining land holdings and yields, contributing to aggressive urbanization iterating the viscous cycle.

The factory worker in the sweatshops of China, Vietnam and Bangladesh will be soon replaced by enhanced automation as it is cheaper over the longer run and the bogey of labor rights impacts corporate reputations. The future for mass based prosperity is endangered as local jobs are getting displaced everyday to cheaper offshore centres from garments to call centres.  Governments across the developing world including India are diluting social protection platforms for workers in the name of attracting investment.  Uncles and Brothers in the early forties are being laid off as they get expensive or do not have the ability to adapt when they have kids in school and medical bills rising.  Re-aligning for the future should the mantra for Skills India/StartUp India or any Skill Credit points in Singapore labor policy platforms.

Happy International Labor Day.


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