The International Association of Career Management Professionals (IACMP) recently held its annual conference in Washington, D.C. Jane Lanthier of Mossop, Cornelissen & Associates was there and provides a sketch of the keynote presentation.

Jeremy Rifkin, author of The End of Work, kicked off the conference with a dynamic and engaging presentation that left participants energized for quite some time

.Rifkin explained that, as the information age replaces the industrial age, we are seeing the end of mass wage labour. Jobs generated by the information age ­ knowledge-sector jobs ­ will be available for only a small percentage of the population. This sector relies on a comparatively small, elite labour force. Even if people were (re)trained for this sector, there would be a shortage of jobs. Rifkin believes new technologies create either unemployment or leisure.

People need to be working in order to support the economy; they need to be consumers. The economy also needs the capital investment of pension plans. For Rifkin, the current moves to reduce labour costs by employing fewer people and eliminating pension plans are counterproductive. He would like to see government act as a deal maker, jump starting increased purchasing and investment by working with companies to shorten the work week while maintaining or increasing pay and benefits; reduced corporate taxes would be used as incentives. In Grenoble, France, Rifkin pointed out, Hewlett Packard was able to reduce the work week to four days from five, keeping pay and benefit levels the same while increasing productivity and profits and protecting or creating jobs.

And what about young people (or older workers) trying to enter the workforce? Traditionally, we have looked to the market or to government to solve the problems of unemployment. Rifkin believes we have to rethink the social contract and look to the third sector, what he calls the civil society, to become the wellspring of commerce. This sector comprises the cultural, non-profit and fraternal organizations. If this sector were recognized as an economy ­ given the number of hours and the value of the volunteer work in this sector ­ it would be a formidable economic force, one of the largest economies in North America. He feels this sector must become better organized and more assertive and should demand more of government and the market. For Rifkin, social capital is just as important as market capital. And the stronger the civil society, the stronger the market.

Rifkin is advocating a social movement that can really make changes: the new politics of the centre. He believes we have a limited window of opportunity to affect these changes; if we are not successful in creating meaningful work for people that provides for their needs, we will lose out to the development of an outlaw culture.