We're all pretty much familiar with demography as the study of human populations, their characteristics and where (and how) they live. But does demography go far enough? Do we need a new discipline to bring more focus to the changing nature of work: the types of jobs we'll see more of in the future, where they'll likely be located, and their other characteristics?
I suggest there is. And I propose we call this discipline job-ography!
A person who studies jobography is a jobographer. This is different to an economist (though they may share a number of professional interests). The economist tends typically to focus on economic systems and how they function. The jobographer will focus on how industry and employment changes impact on locational behaviour of where people work, and all else that arises from the job.
Different jobs need to be in different types of places. They require different types of buildings with different services. Different jobs require different transport arrangements. They require different 'clusters' of related industries to thrive. Different jobs have different training requirements, they pay differently, they offer different career paths, they generate different by products and have different social impacts (noise, smells, waste etc) … it's a long list.
It's also bleeding obvious, which begs the question: "Why is so little urban planning focussed on understanding how changing jobs will change cities?" In my opinion (which is all this is) our city planning, design and associated "urban" professions have been overly focussed on where people live now and into the future, and on how to accommodate future housing needs. Think about "the brawl over sprawl" – which sought to limit the outward growth of housing. It rarely if ever touched on "sprawling" employment. And "density" as an urban concept is more frequently discussed on the basis of housing density; less often is it used on the basis of considering the different employment densities across various industries. Regional and city plans across the country have typically been more preoccupied with managing population growth and housing choice (and location) than managing employment centres or changing job markets and their needs. Comparatively less attention has, it seems to me, been devoted to understanding how the nature of work has been changing where we work - and how this ongoing evolution will have a significant impact on how we set about planning for the future.
Case in point are the raging debates around congestion, public transport and the private car. Those who advocate a punitive approach to private vehicle use (such as congestion taxes, high fuel taxes, cordon tolls) to drive greater public transport use forget one very important thing: public transport typically serves a highly centralised workforce (those in or near CBDs) with regulated work hours. As the proportion of a region's jobs located in city centres decreases, the proportion of people for whom public transport can work also decreases. And the arrival of flexible work practices is the enemy of the regulated "9 to 5" job, which makes scheduling PT a greater challenge. The private car is used because it offers convenience and is often the only option to commute from home to work if the place of that work is not in the city centre.
It has been changes to the nature, type and location of jobs that's driven changes to the way we get around, as much as anything else. But rarely is the nature or location of work given much airtime in debates around managing or alleviating congestion. It's as if the wider presumption is that mostly everyone works in a 9 to 5 office job in the inner city and that life in terms of the commute routine is pretty much as it was in the 1970s. Sadly (or happily depending on your point of view) it ain't so.
The changing nature of work and the different industries that will provide us with jobs in the future is going to have a growing impact on our cities and regions going forward. Two of the biggest employers in the foreseeable future (many economists predict) will be health and education. Unlike office or administrative jobs of the past, these are invariably more suburban in their nature than they will ever be inner urban. Are we spending enough time thinking about how these and other future employers are going to need cities that can accommodate their suburban workplace needs? Are we prepared for how future urban growth industries are going to have very different location and infrastructure requirements to those which have shaped us so far? I don't think so.
So in order to be prepared, we will need jobographers. And lots of them.
Look out for it on seek.com anytime soon: "Jobographer wanted."
You heard it here first! (And yes, I even checked Google. This could be the first time you heard of jobography to describe the study of jobs).
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
7 posts so far.