'Boutique' Workplaces, End of Mass Wage Labor Predicted

Futurist Jeremy Rifkin has seen the future of work, and it looks small and decentralized. Rifkin, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Economic Trends (www.foet.org), gave Monday's keynote address and took questions in a Q&A forum afterward. He said he envisions a "third Industrial Revolution" that is already in progress in the European Union but has yet to have the United States and the fast-growing Asian economies fully engaged.

Hallmarks of this economy will be wide use of renewables, more efficient utility and transportation grids, and hydrogen storage on a very large scale, he said. The health and safety aspects should be integrated during the design and construction phases of these wholesale changes, not later after the infrastructure is already built and OSH changes would be more expensive, Rifkin said.

Cheap labor markets no longer are primary movers in capital flows worldwide -- logistics is the primary factor, he said. "Now, you have to factor the price of energy against the price of labor." he explained. He said what is happening now and will continue to develop is the end of mass wage labor worldwide; it is giving way to technology-enabled, "boutique" workplaces staffed by highly skilled workers, Rifkin said.

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