A growing number of people think their jobs are useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

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Businessman sleeping at his workplace in office

Recent surveys carried out by the Harvard Business Review revealed that most professionals find their jobs meaningless. These jobs have also been termed as being “bullshit jobs”.

Advanced digital technologies have been said to replace jobs, decrease remuneration and increase inequality. However, currently, it is not just the Silicon Valley trend watchers and technoprophets who are concern about the growing changes. In a recent study conducted by the Oxford University have estimated that at least 47% of all American jobs and 54% of those in Europe are likely to be replaced by machines.

Employees have been captivated with the rising tide of automation for 200 years now, and employers have been constantly assuring them that new jobs will not emerge to substitute their positions. After all, mass unemployment has yet to occur. In 1930, a prediction was made stating that we would all be working a mere 15-hours week by the year 2030. However, since the 1980s, many have been working longer hours, resulting in burnouts and stress.

Thus, the real question is: what actually constitutes “work” in this day and age?

Recent surveys carried out by the Harvard Business Review revealed that most professionals find their jobs meaningless. These jobs have also been termed as being “bullshit jobs”. People who worry about mass unemployment discounted capitalism’s extraordinary ability to create new bullshit jobs. In order to reap benefits from the recent extensive technological advances, we will need to radically rethink our definition of “work”.

Most people would say that the meaning of life is to make the world a little more beautiful or interesting through work. However, our definition of work is extremely limited. Only the work that generates money is included in the GDP. Therefore, it is unsurprising that we have planned education around having trained individuals suitable for employment in established organisations. Yet an increasing number of people deemed successful by the measure of our knowledge have reckoned their work as being meaningless.

The irony is that technological progress is only worsening this dilemma. Society used to be able to afford more bullshit jobs because of improving technologies. However, as agriculture and manufacturing become more productive, there were few individuals who remain employed. As such, it is crucial to stop avoiding the debate and tackle the real issue: what would our economy look like if we were to radically redefine the meaning of “work”?

Source: World Economic Forum 

As we look into redefining the meaning of work, what does it mean for higher education? What changes should universities make to ensure that they are able to better prepare future generations for the type of work that are in line with technology advances? In addition, how can universities and industry work together to re-create jobs that are meaningful?

Participate in the upcoming QS WorldClass 2018 from 16-18 April 2018.

This is an event organised exclusively for senior higher education leaders and key industry partners. Interested in making a change to the higher education world? Come join us in Abu Dhabi as we discuss on the “Changes in University/Industry Interaction”.