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 a human to guide them from floor to floor with a physical hand control lever.
was only a part-time thing. I was bellhop in a hotel and was required
to relieve the regular operator during her lunch or dinner.
It was wonderful work. You had the challenge of making swift but smooth rides 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.
most interesting and remarkable – at least for a young guy – were the
June Taylor dancers from the Jackie Gleason Show, who were brought in
for several performances at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition, a very big
show back in those times. The young ladies all were stunningly
beautiful, pleasantly chatty and complimentary about how smoothly I
operated the elevator.
memories of elevator work came flooding back recently when I read a
story about how elevator operating has survived in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil. Several thousand people work as elevator operators there because
of 1991 state law that requires elevator attendants in commercial
buildings five or more storeys.
The elevator jobs that remain, however, are in jeopardy. A court recently ruled against the 1991 law, saying that it unreasonably burdens building owners. In other words, owners have to pay operators wages that could be used to fatten profits.
operators disappeared in most places decades ago along with telephone
operators. The Rio story highlighted the seemingly never-ending stream
of lost jobs in our society.
In the last month we have had the news of General Motors closing its Oshawa plant, knocking thousands of autoworkers out of jobs throughout the 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 alternate employment.
makes you wonder about the future and how many people who want to work
will be able to find jobs as companies seeking to build profits turn to
more automation. The concern has helped generate talk, and some
experiments, of a guaranteed basic annual income for people without
enough basic employment to sustain them.
But jobs are about more than money. Jobs provide fulfillment and help to build social connections and the person-to-person communication that is such an important part of living. Humans are wired for social connections and useful work.
elevator operator explained the importance of a job and communication
in a New York Times interview for the Rio de Janeiro story.
“You’re never bored,” said Roselia da Conceição. “You’re always talking and interacting with people, you learn a lot and you create a type of intimacy.”
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 tell you that the extent of the anger and its resulting turmoil are unprecedented 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 world employment and social trends. It estimates that 1.4 billion workers were in “vulnerable” employment in 2017 and that an additional 35 million will join them by 2019.
employment is a job with inadequate earnings, low productivity,
difficult working conditions and little or no security. In many cases
vulnerable employment is work grudgingly offered because it is needed
today, but likely will not be in the future.
As more jobs disappear you have to worry about what the future will look like. We can be positive and hope it will not be as angry and violent as it is today.