Our society places a lot of emphasis on jobs. Often times, when meeting new people, the first question one would ask is, “What do you do”? In the “adult world”, at least 90% of the time, the inquirer is referring to work, what your job is. Being without a job is nearly universally considered either a lesser state of being, or an issue that needs to be solved. Governments all over the world track unemployment statistics, lament when the number increases, and celebrate when the number declines. In popular culture, unemployed people are referenced as having some sort of issue, being less than ideal individuals to date, or having some sort of degenerate rebellious streak.
Today, as we enter a world where more and more tasks that once provided jobs for many are automated, I postulate the question, do you, or anyone else, really need a job? After all, jobs did not always exist, they developed as a means for labor division as civilization gradually advanced thousands of years ago. But, even nowadays, there are people who survive without a job. There are those who got lucky and inherited large sums of money, those that found other sources of income, such as starting their own business, or investing money really effectively, and even those who live off others for various reasons.
What is it that jobs provide for us that makes nearly all human beings feel as if they need them? Jobs provide, or have the potential to provide three main benefits. Most obviously, jobs provide income; money, which allows us to have the basic building blocks of life, the base of the hierarchy of needs food and shelter, but also allows us to live the lifestyles we desire. For many, this is the main reason for going to work. The other human desires jobs can provide are fulfillment and community. By fulfillment, I am referring to the innate aspect of human nature that makes all of us desire to use our time, energy, and talents to produce something meaning. And community is the need for social interactions.
Nearly all jobs provide people with the means, for which to live, which in the modern world mean pay rent or mortgage, and eat. However, the renegade entrepreneurs of the world, the outsiders that have found other income streams, and those that live off the grid honing primitive survival skills have shown us that a job is not the only manner in which to achieve this end. In fact, there are probably creative individuals right now coming up with completely different and interesting ways to generate whatever income, food, shelter, water, etc. they need to sustain human life.
As far as the other two human desires, fulfillment and community, unfortunately, in this world, a majority of “jobs”, and even many “careers” do not provide this. In the era of education inflation, unnecessary bureaucracy, and large corporations, more and more people find themselves with jobs that are simply not fulfilling. When not fulfilled at work, it is hard to find community there as well. Additionally, high turnover rates and increased use of technological resources for meetings and such make it yet more unlikely that one will find community at work.
A job that provides means, fulfillment, and community is still probably the most efficient manner for human beings to fulfill those three needs. However, it is not the only way. As more and more people find their careers not matching their expectations, and the work they do no longer necessary, it may just be time to think outside the box and consider other ways to get those three needs fulfilled.