@Work Series: Employment in the Innovation Economy

The 2016 presidential election was about many things, but one underlying driver was jobs—not so much the total number of them in the economy, but their availability for the people who need them, their quality, and their security. Indeed, even as the Great Recession fades into the rearview mirror, there is growing unease that work itself is in flux in today’s economy. People worry that if they lose their jobs they either won’t be able to find new ones that are as good or won’t be qualified for the new positions that companies need to fill. They worry that their children won’t enjoy the same standards of living that they have. And most of all, they worry that technology and trade are conspiring to kill more jobs than they create.

This last issue is of particular concern, because it fuels anxiety that could press policymakers to “save jobs” by limiting globalization and technological innovation. In fact, there is now a widespread view, not just among disgruntled populists but also among policymaking elites, that technological innovation will only speed up and thereby destroy tens of millions of jobs, impoverish workers who are left behind, and enrich only a lucky few at the top. This is an erroneous narrative, but it is nonetheless increasingly taken for granted as the truth.

ITIF’s @Work series is dedicated to demystifying and demythologizing these issues and proposing necessary, actionable policy responses. Among the topics ITIF is exploring: How has technology changed the labor market historically and how will it drive change in the future? What is the effect of technology-driven productivity on jobs and wages? Where are the new jobs likely to come from, what skills will they require, and what are the specific steps policymakers should take to reform the country’s workforce training and employment systems?

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