Washington (September 10) – The world is changing faster than our levers of policy can move. Using artificial intelligence, robotics and global communication networks, entrepreneurs are breaking down barriers in new markets and upending traditional business models for consumer benefit. While this is ultimately a sign of progress, our labor markets and workforce must prepare for a period of dynamism and turnover as new technologies are incorporated throughout the economy.

In a new policy paper, R Street technology policy fellow, Caleb Watney; coordinator of labor and social policy at the Department of Economics of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Thomas Köster; and senior economist and coordinator for International Economic Policy at the Department for European and International Cooperation of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung,  David Gregosz lay out broad principles of reform that policymakers can use to guide and augment their thinking as they prepare for the future of work.

The paper argues that while creative destruction is a positive force in our economy, we need policies to help our labor markets adjust alongside innovation to ease political tensions. In addition, policies that facilitate labor market flexibility and that are beneficial in a wide variety of potential futures should be prioritized. Finally, the future of work is broader than we think; issues like monetary policy and zoning regulation have a huge impact on the pace of worker readjustment.

The authors conclude: “Most predictions made in the past about our world today turned out to be clearly incorrect. We should similarly expect to miss many details about what the future of work and labor automation may entail. For these reasons, flexibility, humility and clear-eyed judgement will be core attributes needed from effective policymakers.”