How will technology shape the future for American workers? Who will win, and who will lose, as technology drives change far faster than policy and politics can keep up?
Technology is reshaping the nature of work, but the outcomes are not predetermined. Just as we built a set of institutions to meet the challenges of the industrial economy, we must now build new ones that encourage innovation and flexibility while providing economic security and opportunity for all. We need to reimagine the rules of work and labor for the 21st century.
The weak position of the American worker today is enabled by technology. Looking backward, we can acknowledge that technology has played an important and nuanced role in the rise of inequality over the last 35 years, though it is not the only factor. The larger question is how technology will shape the future for American workers. Will we see worker replacement by automation, flexible gigs and more micro-entrepreneurs, mass long-term unemployment, or all of the above? And who will be winners, and who will be losers, as technology drives change far faster than policy and politics can keep up?
Our policies, our economic rules, our basic thinking about how the economy functions, are all wrong. We need a comprehensive agenda to fully address rising inequality and sluggish growth. To truly solve today’s most pressing economic problems, we must tackle the underlying structures that have produced a high-rent, low-investment economy.
Felicia Wong is the President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, which seeks to re-imagine the social and economic policies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for the 21st century.
Felicia came to the Institute from the Democracy Alliance, where she led the development and assessment of the organization’s strategic investment portfolio. Previously, Felicia ran operations and product development at a venture-funded education services company. Her public service includes a White House Fellowship in the Office of the Attorney General and a political appointment in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. Her doctoral dissertation on the role of race and framing in K-12 public education politics received the 2000 American Political Science Association award in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.
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