United States President, Barack Obama, gave his State of the Union Address for 2016 earlier this week. The speech focussed on the future of the United States and the importance of meeting the challenges faced from changing technology with positive solutions that allow progress to continue.
The major challenges he identifies are similar to those identified by the Future of Work Commission: “technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.”
He asks what he calls the four big questions:
- How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
- How do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
- How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?
- How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?
Some of the solutions he identifies to help answer these are:
- Making the first two years free of community college (similar to a polytechnic);
- Ensuring a system of wage insurance is in place;
- Expanding early childhood education and ensuring students have hands-on computer science and maths classes;
- Strengthening social security and Medicare;
- Boosting the voice of workers, start-ups, and small businesses;
- Transitioning away from fossil fuels and building a 21st century transport system; and
- Political reform to tackle issues of gerrymandering and issues with campaign finance.
Many of these are also relevant to New Zealand.
What do you think are the best ways to tackle the challenges faced by the changing nature of work?
You can see some of the solutions the Commission have identified in our issues papers.