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Career- and Workplace-Related Trends and Predictions for 2014 and Beyond, Part II

Marty Nemko

Last week, 2013 predictions were scored and four incorrect forecasts stubbornly reaffirmed for 2014. Here are nine additional predictions.

Lower-cost health care provider jobs grow. Many people who will be newly insured under Obamacare will be of low-income but with high health care needs, so for cost reasons, health care systems will be forced to replace more-trained professionals with less-trained ones: doctors with physician assistants, physical therapists with physical therapy assistants, anesthesiologists with nurse anesthetists, etc. Also, "emergency" licenses to practice medicine will be granted and training periods will be shorter - for example, an RN could be obtained with just an associate degree rather than the currently preferred bachelor's.

Increase in minimum wage to a living wage. The minimum wage will increase, which will result in, for example, fast food workers getting significant pay boosts. That will result in formerly middle-class people displacing the current crop of low-wage workers. It will also increase companies' already serious efforts to replace workers with robots. For example, fast food robots are already being used in Japan, China and Great Britain both as cooks and servers. Quartz reports that in the United States there's already a robotic replacement for that former safety-net job: Starbucks barista. IBM is developing a virtual salesperson that will know a customer's measurements, ask about preferences and make recommendations more likely on-target than those made by the $10-an-hour sales clerk. That has to make America's 15 million people who work in retail a little nervous.

Roboticization. In addition to the just-mentioned examples, Google, UPS and Amazon are reported to be investing in developing driverless vehicles, which could, within a decade, put millions of truck, bus and train drivers out of work. Another example: The cover story of the January 2014 issue of Popular Science reports that before the decade is over, 3D printers may be able to print a house.

Workplace privacy will increase. A decade ago, organizational development gurus widely touted open work spaces - everyone's desk should be in one big room. But the benefits of easier collaboration are often outweighed by the obvious fact that it's tough to get work done amid noise and distraction. Workplaces will increasingly convert some of that open space into private rooms, sanctuaries where an overstimulated employee can get a bit of privacy, peace and quiet.

More internships will be paid. Employers have used unpaid internships to get free labor, thereby evading the minimum wage law. A recent court decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York may change that.

It'll be harder to snow prospective employers. Employers, frustrated with diplomas', résumés' and interviews' poor validity in predicting who will be a successful employee, will use companies such as Knack and Gild to screen applicants.Those firms' ever more sophisticated and validated simulations will increasingly be used to determine whom to hire. Begging your friends to tout you will work ever-less well.

Fuel cell vehicles emerge. Toyota and Honda have announced that they'll soon manufacture fuel-cell cars. No doubt, other vehicle manufacturers will follow. So jobs in this field should grow.

An even more hollowed-out middle-class. The cost of hiring an American continues to grow: Obamacare is merely the latest cost to employers atop Social Security, Medicare, disability, worker's compensation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave (paid leave in California and New Jersey) and the costs of defending the accelerating employment legal claims. As a result, employers are offshoring as many jobs as possible and making ever more remaining positions part-time, temporary, with no benefits, if not unpaid "internships." An ever higher percentage of jobs will be beyond most people's ability: for example, developing mathematical models for using Big Data, or low-level jobs that most middle-class people would rather be unemployed than do: cleaning toilets, plucking chickens, etc.

The Long-Term Big Prediction: Simplism and a Better World

Per the statistics at the beginning of this article, so many Americans are un- and underemployed and the trend is exacerbating. As Americans' average income drops toward the world average of $18,000 a year while the cost of living continues to increase, it seems only a matter of time until a critical mass of Americans lose faith in capitalism, hopefully without a violent revolt.

But the alternatives of socialism or communism also have great liabilities. This writer's guess is that capitalism's replacement will be simplism: most people forced to adopt what ultimately is a wiser lifestyle. The life well-led consists less in the material (No one needs Batman swag) and more in doing good work, relationships, creative expression and an appreciation of nature and all things simple. That would lead not only to more contentment but to a more sustainable planet.

Whether that or any of the other predictions turn out to be correct, this writer retains hope for the world based on its track record: Over the millennia, while progress has been in fits and starts, inevitably, we move forward. It's most likely that humankind will continue to do so.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach." His latest books are How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. He writes weekly for AOL.com as well as for USNews.com. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com.

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