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i imagine that most people reading this have already started what would be called their "career". career now doesn't have the same connotation that it used to, given that generations past often stuck with one field of work or even a single job for much of their working life, while the average tenure of an employee in the united states as of 2015 was less than five years. among younger workers [millennials and generation z], the average is more like two years.

either way, the workaday world as we once knew it is changing profoundly: some statistics estimate that 50% of american workers will be employed as freelancers by 2027. human resources contractor randstad says that "agile workers" [freelancers, contract or temporary employees already represent 30% of the canadian workforce. such work sounds like a good deal for all: employers can recruit employees for immediate needs rather than having to commit to a permanent position that might become obsolete within a few years, while employees can have greater control over their hours, the amount and type of work they do, and can get around problems like being too old to be accepted for long-term positions.

the problem is that the groups that are supposed to be seeing the benefits from that system aren't really doing so. large, high-profit businesses are putting many of their jobs out to contractors, which means that there are fewer freelance workers available to the small and medium-sized companies who really can't afford to bring on more full-time employees. and many freelancers find themselves in competition with people who live in parts of the world with far lower wages and standards of living. even in the best case scenarios, they have to work without receiving any of the benefits that are conferred on full-time employees.

i'm a freelance worker because i need to be [i care full-time for a disabled person, which is volunteer work and saves the government over $100,000 per year] and also because it has advantages for me personally. the fact that i enjoy the work and flexibility doesn't make it easy. if i didn't live in a country that had public healthcare and a province that provides a very good pharmacare program, i [and by extension, dom] would be unable to live.

what might be most worrying about job trends, however, is what fields of work are disappearing compared to those that are growing.

here is a list of twenty-five professions that are "dying".

here is a list of the fastest-growing occupations in the united states [by far the developed world's largest job market].

the second list shows a pretty clear split: there are high-paying jobs that require university training [often training that involves multiple degrees] and others that fall below even the low estimate of what constitutes the middle class in america. those qualified to work in the higher paying end of the spectrum start their careers saddled with debt. barack and michelle obama, both exemplary students who were able to defer some university costs through scholarships, only paid off their student debt a few years before they became president and first lady. and they were lucky enough to get good jobs after graduation. start working for a company with toxic politics, or that's extended beyond its means, and you aren't going to be so fortunate.

the first list is notable because so many of the jobs listed [travel agent, mortgage broker, bookkeeper, lawyer, broadcaster, journalist, middle manager, i.t. professional, financial manager, postal worker, textile machine operator, furniture finisher, print technician, routine architect] are solid, middle-class jobs that people could get with relatively little education. some required college while others required certification that could often be gained while working a lower-level job at a company in the field. my grandfather had barely a high school education and was looking at the very real possibility of killing his lungs in the coal mine [also a dying middle-class profession but one with significant dangers] but ended up working as a print technician. both my parents were able to launch themselves on successful middle-class careers having established themselves as journalists. neither of them was held in check by student debt. [due to their gaining scholarships, but also in large part to the fact that university education was heavily subsidized in canada. it still is, although not to the extent that it was at that time.]

i'm not bemoaning the losses of specific jobs, at least not all of them: i myself have benefitted from the availability of cheaper digital book presses and i have always been more comfortable booking my own travel. what i am bemoaning is the lack of value placed on other jobs in their wake. university has not gotten more accessible- quite the opposite- but it has gotten more important for maintaining the life that many of us were lucky enough to grow up with, or to build on what past generations have done. what's killed off is either the middle class, social mobility, or both. [it's arguable that social mobility was always extremely limited but this is getting worse.]

however, amidst all the bad news, i can't help but see a small ray of light, one that seems to be ignored by certain administrations: look at the first two of the fastest-growing jobs and you'll see that they are both related to jobs in renewable energy. several others are in the oil and gas industry, however, it's interesting to me that the phenomenal percentage growth [albeit from a lower base] far outpaces any others. both are jobs that are accessible to non-university educated workers. both pay a middle-class salary. it seems that there is still a path to the middle class. so if you're not convinced that a move to green energy is necessary in order to save the world, consider the fact that it may be necessary to save the western capitalist dream. 

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