Jobs are a dying breed. That is to say fewer people are going to have a single employer in the future, says Craig Rispin, a business futurologist.

Instead workers will be like the freelance event co-ordinator, freelance journalist or change management contractor - contracted for specific tasks rather than given a 9-5 salaried job.

Rispin goes as far to say that all jobs will be freelance in the future. It's probably a scary thought for people who need the security of one employer, one salary and the accompanying benefits such as holidays, sick pay, bereavement leave and so on.

"Jobs are disappearing and work is becoming transactional," said Rispin.

"You offer your services for the period of time that a company needs them in return for set payment."

The jobs that won't be lost in the future are those that require critical or creative thinking.

"You can't outsource writing a symphony, or innovations because you're creating new ideas, which is something that only humans can do," said Rispin.

Business futurologists such as Rispin work for large corporations. They analyse trends, anticipate significant changes and identify potential threats and opportunities for the business.

The future of work is concerning the Government as well. The Workforce 2020 study by the Department of Labour attempts to understand future labour market forces.

The report found that four of the factors that will shape the labour market in 2020 are:

* Demographic shifts
* Globalisation
* Pressure on natural resources
* Technology

In Rispin's future world, innovation will be the key to survival. Conversely, the big threat is jobs that can be automated or moved abroad.

It's not pie in the sky. It has happened to many occupations over the years. Once upon a time people were employed in accounts departments to do little more than add up lines of figures by hand. Those jobs disappeared with the invention of adding machines and calculators.

The 2020 report tracks this trend. If the report is right, personal assistants are on the way out, physicists are in serious decline, and malt workers are extinct. On the other hand microbiologists are in demand.

Such changes affect workers. They are also of grave concern to those who have their whole working life still ahead. One of the big problems for young people, says Rispin, is that they get advice from their parents or career advisers who "trot off all the old stuff".

The classic example of this is Microsoft founder Bill Gates' father, who admonished him for dropping out of university to follow his passion in IT instead of getting a real job.

According to Career Services, parents can best help their children cope in the new world of work by helping them understand that their career is a lifelong journey, rather than a destination.

It is no longer enough to ask, "What should I do?" Instead, the questions should be:

* Where do I ultimately want to be in my life?
* How should I do it?
* How does this fit with my life values and goals?
* What could be my next step?
* How can I prepare for the next change as I do my current work?

Those people already in the workforce need to ask themselves how technology could change their job or do away with it, says Rispin.

In some cases it is blindingly obvious. It's only a matter of time before ticket collectors on Auckland ferries are replaced by machines.

Even the humble rubbish collector is affected - with rubbish trucks able to lift and empty bins.

That's just today's technology, not the yet-to-be-invented technology. Accounts clerks who were replaced with calculators probably had no idea that a machine could be invented that did their job.

"You need to look at whether you add any value [to the organisation]," said Rispin. If you don't, a machine can probably do the job.

He cites the example of visiting a pharmacy, asking for information about a product, and being read the information on the box. A touch screen informational computer or even a robot could be more helpful.

And that's not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Rispin refers to a project at Selwyn Village, a retirement care facility in Auckland's Pt Chevalier, where a robot called Charlie does menial tasks such as taking residents' blood pressure, blood glucose and oxygen levels.

The robot also offers entertainment to keep residents alert. It has nine music video channels, a selection of quotes, a phone system, so residents can call family or friends, as well as Brain Fitness - a game to improve memory.

The Selwyn Foundation says it won't reduce staff numbers. But care of the elderly is generally a bottom-line-driven industry and operators could be tempted to use robots instead of workers and cut jobs.

Robots such as Charlie cost just a few thousand dollars these days, not hundreds of thousands of dollars as they did in the past.

The march of technology also downgrades the value of certain jobs.

A pay clerk, for example, was a highly specialised role before computers came along to crunch numbers.

The role became commoditised in the 1970s and 1980s and the relative earnings of pay clerks fell.

Some of the remaining jobs have been moved overseas in the past decade.

Rispin believes many of today's technical jobs will become tomorrow's entry-level jobs, meaning young people will need to be better educated and have more critical thinking and creativity skills than their parents had.

Rispin cites the example of a taxi driver he met recently.

While he was waiting in the queue to pick up his fare, the driver had attended two university lectures online.

His plan was to become an SAP database manager after finishing his degree - a job which in the past required many years of experience.

Many such jobs are being outsourced to low-wage economies.

"We are offshoring the low-value jobs and we want the high-value jobs to stay," Rispin said.

That's why, when you phone 018, you'll speak to someone in the Philippines, or your Vodafone customer services enquiry will be answered by an Egyptian.

Even some high-value jobs are being sent overseas.

Some architectural and engineering design and documentation work is being sent to India.

Technology puts those outsourced jobs at risk too.

If you order a Dell laptop from Dell.co.nz, your order needn't be handled by a person at all.

Computing intelligence determines what parts are needed according to your preferences and the jobs are eliminated.

The good news is that as old jobs die or are replaced by technology, new jobs and whole industries will be invented.

If, for example, you first entered the world of work more than a decade ago, you wouldn't have had the option of being a carbon emissions trader. Such a job didn't exist. Nor were change managers, life coaches or3D animators seen as mainstream jobs.

"I met a guy in the airport who was involved in 'bioinfographics'," said Rispin.

"It's graphic modelling of medical research and universities have just started courses in this and there is already a professional society."

Nanotechnology is another new industry. Futurologists of the 1950s such as physicist Richard Feynman dreamed of building minute machines.

Then in 1986 the term nanotechnology was coined and funding of research got off the ground in the 1990s.

Another high-demand industry is biotechnology. It's a huge growth area with enormous promise and a worldwide workforce which is expanding by the day.

FORWARD THINKING
* Many more people will freelance.
* Perceptions of what a career is are changing.
* People will have more careers in their working lives.
* Complex jobs are becoming entry level.