Opinion polls are now beginning to show a reluctant consensus that, whoever is to blame and whatever happens from now on, high unemployment is probably here to stay. This means we shall nave to find ways of sharing the available employment more widely.
But we need to go further. We must ask some fundamental questions about the future of work. Should we continue to treat employment as the norm? Should we not rather encourage many other ways for self-respecting people to work? Should we not create conditions in which many of us can work for ourselves, rather than for an employer? Should we not aim to revive the household and the neighborhood, as well as the factory and the office, as centers of production and work?
The industrial age has been the only period of human history in which most people ‘ s work has taken the form of jobs . The industrial age may now be coming to an end, and some of the changes in work patterns which it brought may have to be reversed. This seems a daunting thought. But, in fact, it could offer the prospect for a better future for work. Universal employment, as its history showed, had not meant economic freedom.
Employment became widespread when the enclosures of the 17th and 18th centuries made many people dependent on paid work by depriving them of the use of the land, and thus of the means to provide a living for themselves. Then the factory system destroyed the cottage industries and removed work from people’s homes. Later, as transport improved, first by rail and then by road, people commuted longer distances to their places of employment until, eventually, many people