/Worry about future work

Worry about future work

By Jim Poling Sr.

Published Dec. 13 2018

It was a long time ago but I was an elevator operator once. That was back in the days when elevators were not push-button automatic and needed ahuman to guide them from floor to floor with a physical hand controllever.

It was only a part-time thing. I was bellhop in a hotel and was requiredto relieve the regular operator during her lunch or dinner.
It was wonderful work. You had the challenge of making swift but smoothrides without jerky stops and starts. And you had to align the elevator cage floor exactly with the hotel floor so no one would trip getting on or off.
Best of all was meeting the people. Many remarkable folks and many interesting conversations often brief but interesting.

The most interesting and remarkable – at least for a young guy – were theJune Taylor dancers from the Jackie Gleason Show who were brought infor several performances at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition a very big show back in those times. The young ladies all were stunninglybeautiful pleasantly chatty and complimentary about how smoothly Ioperated the elevator.

The memories of elevator work came flooding back recently when I read astory about how elevator operating has survived in Rio de JaneiroBrazil. Several thousand people work as elevator operators there because of 1991 state law that requires elevator attendants in commercialbuildings five or more storeys.
The elevator jobs that remain however are in jeopardy. A court recentlyruled against the 1991 law saying that it unreasonably burdens building owners. In other words owners have to pay operators wages that couldbe used to fatten profits.

Elevator operators disappeared in most places decades ago along with telephoneoperators. The Rio story highlighted the seemingly never-ending streamof lost jobs in our society.
In the last month we have had the news of General Motors closing itsOshawa plant knocking thousands of autoworkers out of jobs throughoutthe Canadian auto industry. And the loss of 700 jobs in Sydney N.S.when Servicom Canada closed its call centre.
Too many workers in Canada and elsewhere around the world are losing their livelihoods. Too few jobs are being created to provide alternateemployment.

t makes you wonder about the future and how many people who want to workwill be able to find jobs as companies seeking to build profits turn tomore automation. The concern has helped generate talk and someexperiments of a guaranteed basic annual income for people withoutenough basic employment to sustain them.
But jobs are about more than money. Jobs provide fulfillment and help tobuild social connections and the person-to-person communication that issuch an important part of living. Humans are wired for socialconnections and useful work.

An elevator operator explained the importance of a job and communicationin a New York Times interview for the Rio de Janeiro story.
“You’re never bored” said Roselia da Conceição. “You’re always talking andinteracting with people you learn a lot and you create a type ofintimacy.”
Huge networks of social connections are cut when a plant closes or when jobs such as elevator operators become redundant.
We live in an increasing angry and violent world. Older people will tellyou that the extent of the anger and its resulting turmoil areunprecedented in their lifetimes.
You have to wonder if at least part of the cause is a lack of fulfilling work and the social benefits it provides.

The future of jobs is a serious worry.
The International Labor Organization has released a 2018 report on worldemployment and social trends. It estimates that 1.4 billion workers were in “vulnerable” employment in 2017 and that an additional 35 millionwill join them by 2019.

Vulnerable employment is a job with inadequate earnings low productivitydifficult working conditions and little or no security. In many casesvulnerable employment is work grudgingly offered because it is neededtoday but likely will not be in the future.
As more jobs disappear you have to worry about what the future will looklike. We can be positive and hope it will not be as angry and violent as it is today.

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