How Covid-19, AI and a rising life expectancy will transform the office

Older workers, on the other hand, may struggle to return to a permanent job at all. “We will see a lot of people who lose their job in their 50s and we know that there is going to be high unemployment for a while,” says Scott.

“It’s hard to get a job if you’re old because of age discrimination … So what you will see is more growth of the gig economy and freelance, because people want to earn but they’re going struggle to get full-time jobs.”

For some, this vision of a growing army of elderly British gig workers frantically hustling their way into their 70s and beyond to make ends meet may not be particularly inspiring.

Either way, big social changes are on the way that we need to prepare for now – with urgency, he says.

A critical plank will be to provide more and better education and skills training – not just for the young – but for people throughout the duration of their lives so they can remain economically productive.

“Education has to be key,” he says. “We are going to have to go to lifelong learning – and that’s huge because, just as the industrial revolution provided education to everyone under 12, 14 and then eventually 18, we now have to think about how we do that across life.”

Scott believes that it’s worth studying what happened in the 19th century, when Britain was convulsed by the technologies unleashed by the industrial revolution, which in turn led to big social changes.

“When the industrial revolution happened, the first phase was economic progress based on tangible progress. So lots of social strains and individual welfare and wages falling. There was a dislocation, but then society sort of kicked in and said: ‘Well, how can we make this work for us?’. And I think we’re keen for that to happen straight away in how we deal with longer lives and technology.”

As back then, government has a big role to play.

“We see a massive growth in institutions providing that training. We think of education as not something to do with the beginning of your life but something to craft right through.”

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