What purpose do work and education serve? In other words, do we see it as something which we can use to impact the world for the Glory of God or do we see it as a means of survival in the world? What is the relationship between being productive and being charitable, when those in need of charity are those who have the ability to work? I addressed these questions and others at length in my work on “The future of education, work and church”. Therefore, what I would like to address here are a few considerations that I believe the church needs to speak in to and make a difference.
Moving in Circles
My aim is simply to address that which we could see coming in the future but has arrived early due to Covid-19. The role of education and work will change and has changed already due to the lockdown. The future, in many ways, will be a return of the past. To put it simply, history demonstrates that work started in the home, then moved to the farm and from the farm, it moved to the factory, from factory to the office and now back to the home. This isn’t the only repetition which has occurred, for work itself has moved throughout time from a payment being received based on how much you had produced to payment being received for how much time you are in the workplace including the work which you produce. Many more today (because of Covid-19, the lockdown and all the implications) will now see the return of more people being paid for what they produce rather than how much time they are spending at work.
When I worked in construction, I had a choice between how I would be paid. I could choose to be paid by the hour and be given set hours or I could choose to be paid by “price”, meaning that you would be given a certain amount for completing a job. The faster you worked and completed to the job, the quicker you could move on to the next job and in effect earn more. However, this depended on two things, the first being that you had the skills to do the work because you were not paid for being there and secondly, you could do the work to a high standard and fast enough to do more and earn more.
It seems that much work in the future will move very quickly back to people being paid for their function and not for the time they spend actually working. A zero-hour contract is effectively a contract which states what it will pay a person for the work that they do (when there is work to do) rather than for the time, even though this is measured over time. Businesses which decide that they will no longer rent office space are also more likely to move away from employing people to using freelancers instead, as work makes its way back to people being paid for what they produce rather than the time they give to the work.
Built-in redundancy and being the most efficient
The mobile phone battery has a built-in redundancy in order that the company making the phone can grow its business, pay its employees, make a profit and develop new products. People too have built-in redundancy (this is a product of the fall) and its called old age, it’s not that they are unable to do anything but they are slower and weaker than they use to be, and God has provided a way for such people to be looked after as they get older. When the light bulb was invented that too was limited to a set amount of hours. This meant that the company could make more and sell more and therefore make more profit. This is not only good business, its good for making sure people have work, whereas those whose aim to be more efficient are also those who through automation replace workers with robots. This is just another example of value being measured in terms of the amount of work completed rather than considering the time and the person completing it.
Losses are never felt equally and from the vantage point of history, low paid and low skilled workers indirectly depend on higher-skilled and higher-paid workers. If we understand this dynamic, then we will also understand what this means for the future of the church and because I have already addressed this in a previous post, I will not repeat the conclusion here. However, there is space to address a few other points by way of conclusion. Having more than one job might be the norm for more and more people, but this depends on their being Jobs available, the bi-vocational ministry (the apostle Paul) is to be expected and planned for and long term commitments of many Christians are threatened by a constant changing world and a church not yet fit for the task ahead of them.