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Social and economic change and generational difference

The world of work and how people approach jobs is changing. These differing attitudes are often generational

Changes in the social and economic environment have influenced how young people view work, according to Ruston Smith, group director of people, pensions and insurable risk at Tesco.

Speaking at a PLSA annual conference discussion on intergenerational fairness in a changing workplace, Smith explained that different attitudes between the generations can be explained by the environment they work in. He described the contrast between the 'jobs for life' culture experienced by those born between 1925 and 1945, compared with a more flexible attitude towards working adopted by those born 2000 onwards.

"Different generations have a completely different perspective," he said. "Younger people are interested in broadening their skills, and don't expect to have one job for one company. They want to make themselves as in-demand as possible.

"This is reflected in changes in benefits. They have moved from simple life cover to flexible options that take personal choice into account. We've also moved from pay for attendance, to pay for performance, to a focus on the total reward."

Speaking at the same event, Paul Redmond, director of student life at the University of Manchester, explained the rise of 'zombie jobs,' where a human is still employed but where many of their responsibilities have become automated.

"An example of such a zombie job is the people who work at baggage check-in desks at airports," he said. "Some jobs will totally vanish because of technology. Chartered accountants for example might only survive for another 10 or 15 years. Hotels have realised that if you want a permanently cheerful receptionist you can hire a robot, and it also won't take holidays."

Redmond anticipated huge changes in the role work plays in the lives of young people compared with previous generations. "This is the first generation more likely to die of obesity than famine," he said. "They are more likely to die of old age than an infection. In their lifetimes there will be more networked devices than living people. Jobs are changing and vanishing very quickly."