We get a lot of news predicting how the economy and job market will be transformed in the aftermath of the fourth industrial revolution. According to reports from international organizations, today’s employees will have to acquire new skills to be able to adapt, and girls and boys should receive computer classes, so that in the future, in addition to being computer users, they can be participants in the development of the creative economy. However, as journalist Livia Gershon explains in the article “The future is emotional”, we are not told so often that only a small percentage of the population will go into software engineering, biotechnology, or advanced manufacturing.
Just as heavy machinery reduced the need for physical labor, the information revolution will encourage jobs that complement the technical skills of computers, rather than pit humans in competition with computers. That is why social and emotional skills that are still undervalued will be considered indispensable.
It was the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild who in 1983 defined the set of processes for managing the emotional demands of work as “emotional work”. Currently, most of us work in jobs that require emotional work, either because we have to carry out the projects together with our colleagues, or because they are in direct contact with the clientele. In the field of medicine, its importance is relevant and empathy is one of the skills that is trained; Giving news to a patient about a diagnosis that will change her life is not easy. In any case, emotional work has not been taken into account throughout history, to the detriment of users and clients.
Technological expansion highlights human emotional labor. We never send physical letters anymore, we send messages through the Internet, but this has valued the social work of many postmen in rural areas, in addition to delivering letters.
The growing demand for people with empathy and emotional intelligence will mean a great change in the vision we have internalized. In addition to taking into account the economic results and direct productivity, we must give the necessary importance to the skills of those who we classify as “unskilled workers”, with due respect and salary. It tends to be above all the jobs of women without university studies that we tend to underestimate in our towns and cities. Caring for the elderly or dependent people involves a lot of emotional work, as well as physical effort, but it is usually found in the underground economy, with low salaries.
As technology and artificial intelligence push us out of cognitive jobs, a huge opportunity opens up for us as a society to provide better wages and conditions for emotionally highly-demanded caregivers. In the same way, in other sectors of the economy we can work on improving skills to build better relationships with the people in front of us.
The current labor market, which measures the quality of employment based on its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, is not prepared to take this forward. The concern of some economists is that not as much has been done to improve the “productivity” of some services such as elder care as in car manufacturing. Emotional work will surely never be a more effective way to get money. The challenge we face as a society is whether, even so, we are more willing to allocate more resources to emotional work.
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