You work hard, provide for your children, and their quality of life eventually exceeds your own. At least that’s how the world is supposed to work.
When global economic disaster hit in 2008 this long-established truth was blown away with people’s homes, livelihoods and savings. Many people now expect millennials to be worse off than their parents – a perception backed by a recent report by the Resolution Foundation, which showed that UK citizens aged between 15 and 35 earned less than previous generations during their first years of employment. And those with jobs are the ‘lucky’ ones: youth unemployment across EU countries is about 20 per cent on average, rising to a shocking 40 per cent to 50 per cent in Greece, Spain, Croatia and Italy.
While it’s clear that for many young people work simply isn’t working, those around retirement age, often referred to as the ‘silver’ generation, face their own set of problems. Some have lost their pensions as a result of the 2008 financial crash, or have seen their savings suffer due to historically low interest rates. Others are taking out loans or continuing to work in order to give their offspring a financial leg-up, or to plug the holes in their personal finances.
Even when there’s not a financial imperative to continue working, some in the silver generation would simply like to put their skills and experience to good use. One study by Age UK showed that they are just as productive and willing to work flexibly as younger workers. This finding was reinforced by two separate studies of German car manufacturers. Older workers in a Mercedes Benz plant were found to be more productive and made fewer errors than younger workers; while BMW found that its ‘Today for Tomorrow’ programme, which set up a production line staffed only by older workers, improved productivity by seven per cent over the first year.
Between 2015 and 2030, the number of people aged 55 and above in high-income countries will grow by a quarter to around 500 million. In the UK alone, there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 in the UK by 2022, according to a 2015 report by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and State Pension age. If the over 50s continue to leave the workforce in line with previous norms it could cause serious labour and skills shortages, which the DWP believe could not be filled by immigration alone. But the longer, healthier lives we lead today and older people’s desire to continue working could help to alleviate this problem, while reducing pressure on creaking health and pension systems.
To realise this opportunity we urgently need to rethink what we mean by ‘retirement’. At the same time, we also need to find new ways to provide young people with fulfilling, rewarding and secure work. I believe many of the answers we seek can be found in the crowd economy. By embracing flexible working, collaboration tools like Facebook at Work, Universal Basic Income and new technologies, we can revitalise work for millions of people – young and old. As I noted in a previous article, the crowd economy is based around five fundamental areas – people, purpose, platform, participation and productivity. And it’s not just about sharing or collaboration or crowdsourcing: it’s a dynamic ecosystem of productive people who participate through a platform to achieve mutually beneficial goals (for a more detailed run-down check out my guide to the 14 parts of the crowd economy).
The crowd economy also taps into the entrepreneurial spirit that characterises the millennial generation, and offers the older workers the kind of flexibility that would allow them to put their valuable skills to good use well beyond their ‘official’ retirement age. Indian based Playment, for example, allows people to work on different tasks provided by the major ecommerce companies it partners with; you can work anytime, anywhere, simply by logging into the company’s mobile app. And TaskRabbit, one of the big names in the ‘on-demand’ space, now has over 30,000 taskers, with 10 per cent earning a full-time income.
Platforms like Kickstarter have also become a focal point for artists, makers and entrepreneurs across the world, allowing them to tap into the financial power of the crowd to fund innovative projects like the Pebble smartwatch and the Oculus Rift. But did you know successful Kickstarter products have also helped to create over 300,000 jobs? According to Professor Ethan Mollick if the University of Pennsylvania, 283,000 them are part-time jobs, while 29,600 are full time jobs. What’s more, Kickstarter has also led to the creation of 8,800 companies – pretty impressive considering how badly the economy has performed over the past decade.
I’ll be exploring other exciting aspects of the crowd economy for millennials and over-65s in the second part of this post, so keep an eye out for it!
Join me at Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2016, November 21st-25th in Brussels, to find out more about the future of work, education and entrepreneurship.