Does automation make jobs boring – or enable leisure?

Some predict that automation will make jobs more boring. But maybe jobs already are more boring than they used to be? After all, my parents lived to work. But I work to live.

ericsson blog robot leisure work consumer trends

Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab

Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. But whereas my parents saw their careers as the core of their identities, I let more experiences outside of work influence who I aspire to be.

And I believe I am not alone in this. In fact, when doing qualitative fieldwork interviews for Ericsson Consumer & Industry Lab projects, we find that people’s hobbies and interests are key to understanding who they are.

That goes for me as well. I easily identify with my hobby, although it is a very simple one: I listen to music. Doesn’t everybody? Well, for me, it is enough.  I then write about it, in order to give something back.

One day I might lose my job, but I know I will never lose my hobby. That is good to know, given the uncertainties in the future job market that we recently discussed in our Creative Machinesreport. And McKinsey estimates that automation will cause around 400 million individuals, or 15 percent of the global work force, to lose their jobs by 2030.

Now, the normal reaction is to say that there will surely be as many new jobs created. But why rush back to where we were in the past? Creating the freedom to engage in leisure may be more important than the need to preserve work.

For this reason, one of our top ten consumer trends for 2018 is the Leisure Society. 40 percent of respondents said they would like a robot that works and earns income for them, freeing up their leisure time.

But even if there are enough jobs, they might become more boring with AI assistance because they will be less challenging. In fact, maybe jobs already are more boring.

When comparing the difference in share of survey respondents who agreed to the statement “Getting personal satisfaction from my job” between 2006 and 2016, satisfaction has significantly decreased in Japan and most of Northern Europe, whereas it was virtually unchanged in North America and has risen elsewhere, most notably in China.

Interestingly, the countries with decreasing job satisfaction all have historically very broad adoption of high tech. Could those decreases in fact indicate a shift away from focus on work to a society where automation enables something more?

Fulfilling work 2006-2016

If you live in Japan or Northern Europe, maybe now is the time to go with the leisure society flow. In our trends research, almost 4 in 10 believed their hobbies could develop into new sources of income.  Turn your hobby into a significant activity or maybe become a social entrepreneur!

Explore more insights from all of Ericsson ConsumerLab’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2018, including Leisure Society!

Ericsson ConsumerLab’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2018
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