The middle managers' loss will be the lifestyle gurus' gain

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The Independent Online

Where are the jobs of tomorrow? One of the surprising and gratifying results of UK economic policy over the past 25 years has been the way the economy creates jobs. There are now officially more than 28 million paid jobs in the country, a record number, while there must be many more unrecorded ones.

Between 1979 and 1999 there was a sharp change in demand for different skill levels. The employment share for the top 10 per cent rose by nearly 80 per cent; the share of the next 10 per cent rose by 30 per cent; and the share of the bottom 10 per cent rose by 40 per cent. The share of every segment in the 70 per cent in between fell.

Thus even before China and India began to have an impact, the pattern was established: there was more demand for jobs at the top of the heap and at the bottom, but less demand for those in between. Socially this must be a serious concern, so what should we expect next?

This is the subject of a new study, Working in the Twenty-First Century, by Michael Moynagh and Richard Worsley, published by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Tomorrow Project. In it they conclude that there will be jobs; that these jobs will in general be better ones; there will be more changes in how people work than in how they are employed, and that management will change to cope with new ways of working.

Of course the only honest answer to the question, "Where are the jobs of 2025?" is that we cannot know. In 1985 there were no web page designers because there was no worldwide web.

But the authors give several pointers. Jobs are likely to be created at the customer interface - from lifestyle gurus to personalised customer support. There will be more demand for people with "social capital" and interpersonal skills. There will be jobs in design and marketing of products made elsewhere. There will be changes in how people work (eg more from home) but no real rise in self-employment. And so on.

It is thoughtful stuff from which, for myself, the biggest message is simply that we have to be thoughtful but non-prescriptive. We have to figure out what we can do that people on the other side of the world can't do better. The market will tell us where our advantage lies; our task is to listen to it.