In our latest policy paper, we focused on the Network Economy. We are in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, changing the nature of work as technology is introduced that takes over tasks, freeing humans to do other things. Automation is driving this revolution, and the growing networks of Internet-connected people and devices, distributed production of renewable energy, and electrification of transportation are making it possible. The economic system emerging from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Network Economy, will be driven by creative, imaginative, and technical inventive work that increasingly leverages information technology in its inspiration, production, and distribution.
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to accelerate the emergence of the Network Economy as it has required new ways of work centered on technology. Before this crisis, substantial and growing economic disparities existed across our workforce, characterized by inequitable access to and representation of racial and ethnic groups in living-wage jobs with benefits, leave, and regular and reliable schedules, let alone in high-wage occupations with power and influence. Much as COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted low-wage workers, the evolving labor market needs of the Network Economy threaten to compound existing economic inequalities.
This paper explores the Network Economy and its implications for the workforce and serves as a guide for policymakers who aim to build a more equitable and inclusive economy. More immediately, it can help inform economic recovery workforce policies to ensure residents are prepared for these economic shifts and are connected to jobs in the future. Finally, while this research and analysis are focused on the Seattle area, the reader will find similar economic shifts occurring in other communities with attendant implications for the local workforce.
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