THE HUMAN WORK

By Ignacio Munyo.

Published on January 19, 2021, on El País.

What do a gynecologist, a hairdresser, a cook, and a caregiver for the elderly have in common? That the tasks they perform cannot be automated as they are inherently human.

The future of work has been present for years in all the forums in which global relevance issues are discussed. Although there is no consensus on the degree of concern, there is no doubt that the automation process has already begun. And it was accelerated by the pandemic.

We are all in the same—very rough—sea. But we are not in the same boat. The tasks every person performs are different, as well as the skills and abilities necessary to carry them out. The key is to develop jobs that complement technology. Being condemned to carry out tasks that can be automated is not the answer. In turn, qualification and regulatory conditions need to be generated to create new jobs, which do not arise by spontaneous generation.

We tried to address the heart of the matter on a book that has just been published by Penguin Random, along with Federico Castillo, under the topic of ‘debates.’ We talked with people with non-automatable jobs. We observed them in their environment, and we tried to describe their tasks. We asked them how they believe they can evolve. We did not find any recipes, but we did find enriching testimonies.

The book includes debates about the future of work with various personalities from different fields: from chef Francis Mallmann to the president of PIT-CNT Fernando Pereira, including the psychologist Alejandro De Barbieri and the director of Hogar Ituzaingó de la Colonia Berro, Jorge Muñoz. There are several more personal testimonies that are presented to support different forms of creativity and empathy of the human being. That is why the book is titled: La Revolución de los Humanos: El Fututo del Trabajo.

Our book also delves into public policies because the State has a vital role to play. Changes in labor regulation and in education are needed to smooth the transition between old and new jobs. The necessary legal modifications were analyzed in different discussions we had with professors of labor law and specialists in the field. The advantages of project-based education are analyzed based on the results of academic studies and what we observed in classrooms with previous successful experiences.

But the reality is that the number of workers in need of support to be able to hope for a better future is very high. Training and reeducation programs must rise to the occasion. The series of documents published by the ILO in 2019 on the Future of Work in commemoration of its centenary reveals that the only answer is permanently investing in capacity development.

As Enrique Iglesias writes in the book’s prologue: “work concerns run throughout the history of humanity. It is what supports human survival on the planet, but also what supports personal creativity, both physical and spiritual (…) The great challenge of tomorrow’s society is to make work a great pillar of support for social solidarity as well as for new forms of personal fulfillment (…) which must serve to live longer and better a useful life for workers and for society.” That is the human revolution. That is the spirit of the book that has just come out.