Work 2040 – Scenarios for the Future of Work

From the 80s to the present day, rather big changes have taken place in Finland’s occupational structure. The workers of 2017 represent a different group than a couple of decades ago. Part of the progression is slower and part of it is uneven, because the working population replaces itself over decades. For example, a student studying coding in comprehensive school this year will receive their MSc in the early 2030s. At times it is hard to notice the transformation of work, for the concepts and vocabularies of work have been born in the era of industrial work.

Questions relating to the nature of work are becoming increasingly important as work looks for new modes. The effects of the global competition of work can be seen, for example, as layoffs in Finnish pulp mills. On the one hand, the automation of work and accelerating digitalization are seen as future society’s saviours, but on the other hand as a force that will supplant humans. An often recurring theme in the discussion is technological inevitability. It cannot yet be said for certain whether the development will be seen in the case of individual workers or if joblessness will increase in society as a whole.

In this work 2040 publication, you will find three scenarios for the working life of the future. They present different possible futures, along with observations, new phenomena and perspectives related to them. The scenarios create opportunities for action and choice, and help conceptualize why work is important.

The scenarios show the different ways in which job functions, descriptions, work methods and what we think of as work can change. We hope they will also show that we get to decide the future of work. We already have the abilities to avoid the pitfalls on our way towards the future of good work.

We wanted to investigate the transformation of work together with pioneers of Finnish working life. Sitra, Varma, Tieto Oyj, the Finnish Tax Administration and Trade Union Pro joined us as partners in the scenario study, each of them looking at the future of work from their own perspectives. Additionally, a notable number of Finnish experts and researchers on work and the transformation of work participated in the workshops.

In the project’s workshops, it was discovered that while desirable work-related futures are easy to imagine, the path to the desired future is not necessarily a smooth one. The scenarios help us understand the side effects of decisions made now and in the next few years, and build the best possible working life for as many people as possible.