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When we talk about the future of work, we usually focus on artificial intelligence, robotics, driverless cars. The future of work, we’re told, is a future where humans cease to be necessary.
Ai-jen Poo wants to refocus that conversation. When we think about the future of work, she says, we need to think about care workers. Home care work — caring for the elderly and for children — is the fastest-growing occupation in the entire workforce, expanding at five times the rate of any other job. By the year 2030, child care and elder care jobs will be our economy's single largest occupation. If you’re talking about the future of work and you’re not talking about care work, you’re doing it wrong.
Poo is a MacArthur "genius" grant-winning activist and organizer. She began her career in New York City, organizing domestic workers, and eventually lobbied New York state to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Thanks to her efforts, seven other states have now passed similar legislation.
Today, Poo is the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the co-director of Caring Across Generations, and the author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. In this episode, we talk about how she managed to organize a population of workers that spend most of their lives behind closed doors, why she calls herself a "futurist," and the central paradox of care work in America — that the folks who care for those we love are often the most undervalued and least protected.
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