What's the future of work - according to children?
The future after all belongs to children - not adults.
'Future of Work' discussions (of which there are millions) are overwhelmingly dominated by the musing and postulations of adults.
The future (at least the longer-term future) actually doesn't belong to adults; it belongs to children.
What we find particularly ironic about this ongoing body of academic research is that very few of the scholars making bold statements about the future of work have bothered to talk to children about their views and opinions on the topic.
According to at least one source that has actually asked children how they feel about the matter:
'Based on our survey, the top five professions kids want to be when they grow up are consistent with what we’ve seen in prior years: doctor, vet, engineer, police officer, and teacher.'
'Of all the wannabe doctors on this survey, a whopping 80 percent were girls. Girls were also more likely to pick STEM careers than boys whose picks leaned toward civil service — namely, police officer (79 percent boys) and firefighter (87 percent boys). Still, when it comes to the most generic STEM position, “scientist,” girls and boys were pretty much evenly split: 45 percent of would-be scientists were girls and 55 percent were boys.'
What's striking for us is that the Top 4 most popular professions selected by children are all service-orientated.
One could argue that children below the age of 10 perhaps wouldn't know any better and that things like making money and personal status are not as yet a part of their worldviews.
But what is interesting is that along with boundless creativity (that gets drummed out of them by the school system), children are naturally inclined to want to be of service to others.
Almost all Future of Work reports also tend to completely miss the nuanced point that being of service to others (as a primer for how human beings may be able to make themselves more of use) amidst the plethora of new technologies that are apparently set to make us all redundant, is a mindset, which guarantees individual worth - no matter how the world changes.
There is no doubt that as children grow up, their views on what they want to be when they grow up, shift.
Some people argue that asking children these kinds of questions is wrong; and that you should not be forcing children to choose just one thing or suggest that their self-worth is dependent on what they want to achieve in life.
I think the topic itself needs to be reframed for adults.
It's not a question intended to constrict a child's mind; rather it's about inviting a child, at that specific time in their lives, to imagine how they might one day want to positively contribute towards society.
Igniting their imaginations in that way is a very powerful way of presenting the numerous opportunities that are available to them in the future, should they so choose.
So let's not ignore the opinions of kids in the ongoing debate of where the world of work is heading, it's their future after all.