Griffith academic publishes book on the Future of Work, outlining the potential futures we face and the choices we make that will affect those futures.

What do we know about the current realities of work and its likely futures? What choices must we make and how will they affect those futures? Many books about the future of work start by talking about the latest technology, and focus on how technology is going to change the way we work. And there is no doubt that technology will have huge impacts. However, to really understand the direction in which work is going, and the impact that technology and other forces will have, we need to first understand where we are.

Professor David Peetz, (above) member of the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, has published The Realities and Futures of Work, a book covering topics ranging from the ‘mega-drivers of change’ at work, power, globalisation and financialisation, to management, workers, digitalisation, the gig economy, gender, climate change, regulation and deregulation.

In doing this, it refers to some of the great works of science fiction. It demolishes several myths, such as that the employment relationship is doomed, that we are all heading to becoming ‘freelancers’ or ‘gig workers’ one day, that most jobs will be destroyed by technological change, that the growth in jobs will mainly be in STEM fields, that we will no longer value collectivism as we will all be ‘individuals’, or that the death of unionism is inevitable.

“I wrote much of this book while based in Australia, and so some of the examples are Australian. But there are also examples from the USA, where I finished writing this book, and even from Scandinavia, where I spent a few months living quite some time ago”, says Professor Peetz.

‘Those two areas—the USA and Scandinavia—represent the extremes of the industrialised world, from what would be called the archetypal liberal market economy, in which the state plays an alleged minimalist role and the market mostly rules, to the group of archetypal coordinated market economies in which the market is frequently subordinated to the demands of the state and civil society. That range tells us something about the diversity of possibilities open to us all, and underlines one of the ideas in this book that there are, indeed, choices that can and will be made.”

The Realities and Futures of Work also rejects the idea of technological determinism—that whatever will be, will be, thanks to technological change—and so it refuses to accept that we simply need to prepare to adapt ourselves to the future by judicious training since there is nothing else we can do about it. Instead, this book provides a realistic basis for thinking about both the present and the future. It emphasises the choices we make, and the implications of those choices for the future of work.

Through this book, Professor Peetz and contributing authors identify the policy implications of the patterns and trends of technology and the workplace that are discussed. The book begins with a unique ‘sliding doors’ moment that highlights the stark differences in outcomes that may arise from critical decisions still to be taken.

“We will also consider what those decisions are, and what directions need to be taken. There are choices that need to be made about the direction of economic policy; and there are choices to be made about the rights of people at work” says Professor Peetz.

The Realities and Futures of Work is available from Australian National University Press  for free download or can be purchased in hard copy from the same site.