Do you still see the information age ushering a new era of wealth and leisure? Well, think again. According to Anne Else, co-founder of feminist magazine Broadsheet and author of False Economy, launched last month by Tandem Press in Auckland, we may have all been duped.
Else says the full effects of information technology are yet to be felt on our economy. We work harder, longer, in more stressful conditions with less job security.
"From the evidence that I've picked up we're only just seeing the beginning of the effects that computers will have on jobs," says Else. "While everybody says they create as many jobs as they destroy that doesn't seem to be the case.
"We have barely begun to see the effect because companies have only just begun to re-engineer in ways which alter their structures, particularly their management structures and information flows to take full advantage of computers."
Else sees huge job losses in the pipeline, both in manufacturing and in the services sector. "We're seeing, for example, the advent of shopping via the computer, we're going to see automated warehouses ... . You're going to virtually eliminate retailing in a number of sectors."
Else also sees a loss of jobs in parts of the current technology infrastructure, particularly in the data processing area.
There is, however, an upside. "There are some sorts of jobs that computers never replace," says Else. "Those are the jobs that involve interacting with other people--all the jobs that involve caring. We have a massive caring work deficit."
The problem, of course, is paying for that kind of work. "We are facing a world in which the full profit production sector ... is requiring fewer people and generating higher and higher profits because it requires fewer and fewer people. At the same time we have these crying needs and we're setting up a situation where there's no way to pay for this."
Else also sounds a warning about the clash between unpaid work, paid work and casual work to suit the needs of production, saying that the instability means the long-term support and income that families require is just not there.