This is a question I have become super excited about. The financial crisis really hit while my kids were still in nappies and so I could barely stay awake long enough to realise other things were going on in the world, never mind pay attention to them. But as it stretched on and youth unemployment became big news, it began to filter into my addled consciousness. In a moment of fear that came along with the realisation that the responsibility for these two small people really was primarily mine and my husband’s, no one else’s, I blurted out to my husband, “What if this goes on and on and there are no jobs for our kids?!”
Having worked in research about children and families, I knew the long lasting affects unemployment has had on young people who experienced it during the Thatcher era. Not only did it increase the chances of them being unemployed and earn less later in life, it also had negative effects on their life satisfaction, physical and mental health and job satisfaction, more than two decades later.
This scared the hell out of me, hence my question to my poor, ever-patient husband who told me not to worry. If this happened, he’d give up his job and start his own joinery business with the kids as his apprentices. Weirdly, this made me feel better instantly. The idea of setting up my own business was something as alien to me as Nutella on boiled eggs but I found the idea of taking your livelihood into your own hands very appealing, if a bit scary and out of reach. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a way to help my kids see this as a viable option for their future.
And so, in true researcher form, I did some research… This is just a flavour of the initial results but a few messages were clear.
There is a growing body of writing that suggests that the financial crisis has affected social change as well as the obvious impacts such as people losing their jobs or not being able to put their life onto their credit cards any longer. Authors such as John Williams, James Altucher and Markus Albers propose that our trust in big institutes like the banking sector (and I’d add the BBC following a number of high profile sex abuse cases) has been severely rocked to the point that it’s unlikely to be restored to the same extent again. What were once secure, permanent jobs are now under threat (even those in the public sector) and so, the authors claim, this is the prime time to take your future into your own hands and start a business. And it’s not as crazy as it might sound. Some of today’s biggest brands – like Walt Disney Productions, IBM, Microsoft and Apple – were started during periods of recession.
Relating this back to what the future of work might look like for our kids, it’s impossible at this stage to even dream about what these future businesses or jobs might look like. Research by Karl Fisch, captured within this video, suggests that the ten most sought-after jobs of 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004. I’d recommend watching it when you’re fully awake (rather than late at night like I did) as it has some big, amazing numbers in it. We do indeed live in exponential times. Our jobs as parents therefore can’t be to work out what this all means so we can figure it out for our kids. We have to equip them with the skills to figure it out for themselves, and also to see the opportunities, not the scariness, of it all.