Cities & the Future of Work

Automation, the gig economy, disruptive technology. The nature of work is changing and to ensure that residents and local economies thrive, cities need to change as well. Fast Company outlines six ways cities can prepare for changes to the urban employment structure. From investing in technology to re-asserting the importance of place, and a lot of innovative policy, the list offers a well-rounded series of measures that can help us prepare for a future of work that is already here.

Invest in broadband: Not a luxury to attract the Netflix watching creative class. By 2018, about 80% of jobs will require high speed internet, up from today’s 66%. In a spiky world, competitiveness is about connectedness.

Invest in community spaces: As fewer people spend their days working for a single company, we need new (or a return of old) spaces to interact. More than just socializing (although it’s very important, too), shared spaces are important for creative collisions and the development of new ideas. Co-working and community spaces could take many forms.

New forms of insurance: Anyone who has ever worked freelance knows that the bills don’t stop just because a client is slow to pay. In fact, more than half of freelancers have experienced such a situation in the past year. New York City recently passed the Freelance isn’t Free Act to penalize clients who are slow to pay. Not only is this type of legislation great for today’s freelancers, it’s also a signal to those working (or struggling) in other cities, that a city is open for freelance business.

Portable benefits: The gig economy is the latest culprit, but the decline of jobs that come with full benefits has been taking place for decades. Inequity is one of the greatest challenges our cities are facing, and this an important step to addressing it.

Make it easier for criminals to work: In the US, one third of citizens have a criminal record. Punishment doesn’t stop once a crime has been addressed however. For many, a record becomes a big obstacle to quality employment. These long-term impacts contribute to greater inequity, and many cities are addressing this by banning questions regarding a criminal record on employment applications.

Basic income: Compounded by the rise of automation and other shifts in employment, there is a growing chorus of voices calling for basic income, from across the political spectrum. Moving beyond the conceptual phase, the Dutch city of Utrecht is experimenting with a basic distribution of income to residents, and a pilot project is under way in Finland.

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