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What is work and what is its future?

According to experts, we will define work in the future in a different way than we do now.
The picture shows Professor Arturo Bris giving a talk at a seminar at the School of Business.
Working environment and meaningfulness of the work are important for graduating students today, said Professor and Director of IMD World Competitiveness Center Arturo Bris. Photo: Roope Kiviranta / Aalto University.

A full lecture hall of senior officials, labour market experts, Aalto professors and other participants interested in the topic met to discuss what work will be in the future.

‘Nowadays, work is defined as productive activities that at the same time enable people to fulfil themselves. In the years to come, many jobs will no longer be productive, but rather will simply bring satisfaction to those that carry them out. The key question is how societies will be able to finance and maintain good living conditions for people in the future,’ says Professor Arturo Bris, who is visiting as a guest of the School of Business.

The importance of the meaningfulness of the work is emphasised and it is already visible.

‘Before, graduating students simply wanted to go after the money, but today the working environment and meaningfulness of the work can be even more important than money,’ Bris continues.

But what is work?

Definitions vary as to what makes productive work. According to Assistant Professor Matti Sarvimäki, work can still be defined as activities that people do to earn a living and for which someone is willing to pay. This is the case despite the fact that the work itself has changed considerably and will continue to change.

‘A hundred years ago, the majority of our population made their living from agriculture, but today only a small minority do so. Technology has replaced a lot of dangerous and monotonous jobs, while at the same time it has created completely new professions, such as a network chat server administrators or database administrators. In other words, change has taken place before, and we have adapted to it excellently,’ says Sarvimäki.

The seminar discussion also turned naturally to the future role of universities.

In the future, universities will have two important roles. First of all, they will act as a facilitator of continuous learning. Secondly, university studies will be an important tool for self-fulfilment. Matti Sarvimäki considers that the role of universities will continue to be significant in the future.

‘There is no indication that education would be unnecessary in the future.’

Professor Arturo Bris is a professor of finance and Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.  The IMD publishes annually an international competitiveness index, in which Finland ranked 15 in 2019. Matti Sarvimäki is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Aalto University School of Business and specialises in research into work and education.

Bris and Sarvimäki were speaking at the seminar ‘The future of jobs and pay’ held at the School of Business on Thursday 30 January. Janne Viskari, Director General of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, also spoke at the seminar.The panel discussion was moderated by Professor Kristiina Mäkelä, Provost of Aalto University. The seminar was organised by Aalto's project Data Driven Society with support from the Finnish Science Foundation for Technology and Economics KAUTE, and was coordinated by Professor Joni Kokkonen and Professor Matti Suominen.

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