OPINION

Dystopian drama Years and Years sounds warning - but who will listen?

FEAR: The future of work is often discussed, but little attention is paid to the impact of disturbing trends in politics.
FEAR: The future of work is often discussed, but little attention is paid to the impact of disturbing trends in politics.

I have recently started watching Years and Years starring Emma Thompson, and I don't mind saying it scares the living crap out of me. This isn't because it's murderous, horror or C-grade sci-fi, but because it's a TV show that tells it like it is and then tells it like it will likely become.

The picture it paints of our global future is a dire one. More than that, I can absolutely see how we seem to be hell-bent on hurtling towards such a future at full pelt. It's honestly the stuff of nightmares.

The future world of work is an oft-discussed topic within my professional sphere: talking about what the future of work will look like is a common theme of our ongoing professional development.

These forecasts have all focused on automation, globalisation, redesigning the way we perceive employment culturally through an increase in flex work and career portfolios, and reshaping self-employment to write a narrative of empowerment and control in an uncertain world.

However, Years and Years highlights one area that many of these discussions seem to overlook - the impact of politics on the future or our workforce.

For many of us, politics represents a rather boring subject at the dinner table.

Conversation is often limited to the latest gaffe or affair (such is the calibre of many of our "leaders" in the capital), but being aware of the politics regarding trade agreements, diplomatic tensions, resource battles, etc., play a significant part in informing us on our labour market movements.

In recent years, we've seen a downturn in manufacturing, for example. Economic growth in terms of GDP has started to turn around, but job numbers are not showing similar trends due to the role of automation in new industry enterprise.

Offshore trade agreements enable large scale companies to take advantage of cheap labour in less regulated regions of the world and thus we see much of our work follow the dollar overseas.

Changes in these international agreements and taxation policy leads to changes in the decisions these companies make with regards to labour distribution. It pays to pay attention.

Years and Years has shown us that the impact of military decisions and diplomatic breakdown can plunge the world into recession and upset the global apple cart with regards to jobs that had previously been considered "future-safe".

In the show, Trump launches a nuclear weapon against a fictional Chinese territory and the sanctions that follow this act lead to economic and political turmoil across the western world. US companies started pulling out of foreign territories causing mass job loss, US banking institutions closed down taking millions of their clients' money with them, and future uncertainty hit an all-time high. Unemployment skyrocketed and traditionally sturdy occupations (such as accountants, financial managers etc) became obsolete. Simultaneous leaps in technology led to automation of middle management jobs, people were getting cyber implants in their bodies to be constantly connected.

While some of these changes are foreseen, the impact of political international relations is rarely a part of the future of work narrative we work with today, and it can change everything in the blink of an eye. We expect a slow evolution, but that's not guaranteed in this political climate. This dystopia really is a Brave New World. It's set now and tracks forward only a handful of years in the future. The rabbit hole that the show's world spirals down can easily be foreseen from the moment in time in which we stand right now. That is where the real, genuine fear comes in. This dystopian mini-series is a glimpse into our future, a warning: change something while we still can.

The impact of political international relations is rarely a part of the future of work narrative we work with today, and it can change everything in the blink of an eye.

I take no solace in the fact that we have been given this glimpse for I know full well that nothing will be done about it. No change will come. It's just a TV show after all. What do the writers know about anything of value? If we don't listen to scientists, social welfare specialists, firefighters, the people, what hope do we have of a British TV show waking us up from this zombie-like affliction called apathy?

After all, as Aldous Huxley said: "Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted."

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au