The Case for Part-time, part 2

one is many

The previous post The Case for Part-time came off more self-serving than I intended, and I wanted to frame my thoughts as part of the larger context.

If I’ve learned anything with the help of the internet, it’s that if I am in a certain situation, then there is a community of people in the same situation.

Employers take notice - there are many of us who need to work part-time. And if only a handful of people need part-time now, keep reading, because as automation, robotics, AI and virtual offshoring continue to grow, our part-time community will grow, too.

the robots are coming

A recent article Are Robots Competing for your Job? ( New Yorker, Feb. 25, 2019) does a great job of condensing some economic theories and the potential displacement of workers from all sectors of the workforce. (Quotes below are from this article.)

point 1: white-collar jobs will be displaced, too

If the job isn’t replaced by a robot or algorithm, it can be what the article calls and “augmented immigrant”.

“this international talent tidal wave is coming straight for the good, stable jobs that have been the foundation of middle-class prosperity in the US and Europe, and other high-wage economies.”

Perfect example: A few weeks ago a news story went viral: a doctor informed a patient of a terminal diagnosis via remote video chat.

point 2: jobs that can’t be displaced won’t be paid better

The catch is that, historically, caring, sharing, understanding, and empathizing with people who are in the same room as you has been the work of women, and is therefore either unpaid, and not recognized as work, or paid very badly. Childcare, elementary-school teaching, nursing, geriatric care, and social work will not suddenly become high-paying, high-prestige professions simply because everything else is done by robots.

It’s anecdata, but I’ve observed that the jobs advertised as part-time are often in these poorly paid “care” jobs, which uncoincidentally “has been the work of women”. But that’s another story for another time…

point 3: it’s not the immigrants

And a study published last summer in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy—whose lead author, Carl Frey, is the same guy who made the list of the seven hundred and two most computerizable jobs—argues that the robot caravan got Trump elected. Measuring the density of robots and comparing them with election returns, Frey and his colleagues found that “electoral districts that became more exposed to automation during the years running up to the election were more likely to vote for Trump.”

From that aforementioned list, the jobs displaced due to automation are office admin, sales and service, most of which fall in the “high risk employment” category. That “high risk” category corresponds to 47% of the labor force! Here’s the original dataviz:

Probability of computerization dataviz Probability of computerization legend

Source: The Future of Employment (PDF)

point 4: we want more than a distraction

The article brings up universal basic income

[There will be a] group of those who will be mostly unemployed and may be receiving a universal basic income as compensation for being the victims of technological unemployment.

and a further far-reaching idea:

Some futurists suggest that, in our Asimov-y future, these sort of people might wind up spending their empty days playing video games. Otherwise, they’ll wage a revolution…

Rather than “empty days”, let’s build a society where part-time is taken seriously, and with the extra time we can enjoy more moments with family and friends, and contribute back to our communities.

Philip Shemella
Philip Shemella

Thanks for reading