The Future of Work
Professor Marquisha Lawrence Scott explores the impacts of globalization on healthy youth development
Assistant Professor Marquisha Lawrence Scott thinks a lot about the future. Specifically, she ponders the future world that youth will face — what their lives and work will look like in an increasingly globalized, automated world.
Already, Scott says, automation is decreasing fast food, factory and similar types of jobs that young people (ages 15–29) and people of color typically occupy. Although the future of work is the topic of conversation in government agencies, boardrooms and thinktanks, youth — particularly young people of color and those experiencing homelessness — are not part of these conversations, Scott says.
“We know in this globalized society, kids won’t just be connected with the people they grow up around,” says Scott, who holds a Master of Divinity in addition to an MSW and a PhD in social welfare. “They’ll be working for organizations that are more global and integrated in a way we haven’t seen before. How will they get the support they need in a world that is globalizing?”
Mediating structures such as religious congregations and community organizations can help youth prepare for the changes globalization and automation will bring, but they’re not typically engaged in the conversations about the future of work, either. And that’s where social work can play a role, Scott says. If social work is concerned with the healthy development of all youth (one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work), it must also be concerned with where and how young people will work and how youth will be prepared for emerging work roles. Otherwise, those who are already marginalized and oppressed will be further left behind and left out.
“What will it take for them to thrive in a society that will leave them out of the conversation but still hold them accountable?” Scott asks. “Do I expect there to be some global policy? Our kids don’t have that kind of time.” Young people will not be able to rely on government supports to prepare them for the future; community supports will have to help youth prepare, and do so quickly, she says.
These conversations can get messy, Scott says, as so much is unknown and structured approaches such as futures thinking are new to social work. “We don’t know what the future will be, but we know what it won’t be,” she says. “We know that we need fewer people in jobs like manufacturing but more people focusing on things like aging and elder care, and climate change.”
Young people today probably won’t hold one job for 35 years and will need to prepare for continuing education throughout their lifetime, Scott says. “Kids are going to have to be more willing and able to be working with people from different spaces. Our kids are going to have to collaborate with other parts of the world.”
Scott has proposed a 2022 Society for Social Work and Research conference roundtable to discuss these issues, which she also writes about and discusses in her classes. Her thinking on the future of work and impacts of globalization on youth are informed by her extensive research on globalization in rural India, where she and a research team conducted more than 3,100 in-person interviews across seven states. “One in six people in the world is Indian. I wanted to see how they feel connected to the larger world.” One key finding was that in an increasingly cashless economy, marginalized populations are being further left behind and require substantial interventions if they hope to catch up.
Scott plans to expand her exploration of the impacts of globalization on youth and marginalized populations to Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the United States.
Meantime, she says, “I want to talk to anyone interested in the well-being and support of youth and young people. There’s a lot that has to happen — I’m not the only one needing to have this conversation.”