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Why the concept of being an “employee” is dying out: SmartSolo

Why the age of independence is upon us

By Phil Ruthven
Wednesday, 04 July 2012

feature-utopia-thumbWork just isn’t like it used to be. We work in different and more diverse occupations, and in different industries.


More paid workers are female and more are part-time or casual. We are having more seasons in our working life, and we work for more money, fewer hours, and do more of it from home.


But perhaps the most profound change in the second half of this new age – which began in the mid-1960s and should last until the middle of the 21st century – is increasing freedom. It was not all that long ago that slavery was abolished, but constraints have continued in one form or another into this new century.


The exhibit below outlines the emerging new order as the last vestiges of “slavery” fade away in the decades ahead.




The younger generations (Gen Xers and Gen Y) will not be fazed by these changes, but older generations are mostly antipathetic to them, and not good at coping with staff that are amenable to them.


Politicians and legislators are mounting rearguard actions to these changes as reflected in Fair Work Australia, but progress will be unstoppable in due course.


The term “employee” will slowly go out of use later in the century, as more workers see themselves as their own business, and contract for outputs, not inputs (of hours) on a business to business basis – albeit often needing a paid adviser or mentor in the process.



The growing importance of married women in the workplace is shown in the chart below, as the discrimination against them was removed with the birth of the new age in the 1960s.




And the growth of part-time employment is just as clear in the following chart, also coinciding with the advent of the new Infotronics Age. Only the Netherlands has a higher proportion of part-timers, 34% compared with our 28%.






Adding to the good news is that working hours are shrinking, as they have done for nearly two centuries. The next chart shows the recent fall in working hours per week over the past several decades, yet with rising real wages.




It is little known or appreciated, however, that the total hours of work per lifetime has never changed, as the final chart confirms.




We do, nevertheless, work for twice as many years these days (about 50 years) at half as many hours per year as our forebears in the early 1800s, who worked for 25 years on average, with twice the work-hour load per annum.


Living for more than twice as long has had other benefits too, it would seem: we spread the work out over this longer lifetime. But the total hours of work take up about 12% of our life compared with nearly one-quarter two centuries ago.


Better to be alive in this century than any other.


Phil Ruthven is chairman of IBISWorld. For more information on this, or any of Australia’s 500 industries, visit IBISWorld.


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