Blockchain: A fix for the broken data layer underlying the global labor market 

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Let’s face it: The labor market is completely outdated. It’s been that way for a while. Change is finally coming based on three major forces all converging. These forces — the volatile and disrupted labor market, rising privacy concerns and the emergence of blockchain technology — are creating a necessary change in the way individuals navigate their careers and livelihood, and how employers and other stakeholders in the labor market make workforce-related decisions. The possible end result is a once-in-a-generation revolution for the job market. 

A volatile and disrupted labor market 

Technological and social changes are driving the mega-trends for the future of work. With the global skills gap, talent shortage, job market polarization, deepened inequalities and the rising tide of non-standard employment, the labor market continues to be one of humanity’s biggest challenges for the next decades. 

The right to work — the free choice of employment — is a basic human right. The modern labor market is fragmented, ultra-specialized, filled with all sorts of alternative work arrangements or gig employment. It becomes an extremely confusing environment to navigate as the growing sense of job insecurity cuts to the core of identity and social stability. Now more than ever, we need to accelerate our ability to develop and deploy human capital on a global scale. 

Rising privacy concerns 

With the arrival of the commercial internet in the 1990s, data collection efforts began exponentially ramping up to generate mountains of information. The personal data users give away for free is transformed into a precious commodity. For a long time, brands could do this unabated, and consumers did not voice their concerns. However, that’s beginning to change. According to the Pew Research Center, 79% of Americans now report being concerned and confused and feeling a lack of control about the way companies are using their personal information. These growing concerns and the cascade of privacy scandals that have come to light in recent years are driving legislatures towards much more rigorous privacy legislation and enforcement. 

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The emergence of distributed ledger technologies (blockchain) 

Blockchain is no longer just about Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies in general. Instead, it can be seen as a disruptive, revolutionary technology that will have major impacts on multiple aspects of our lives. A blockchain is a distributed database or ledger that is shared among nodes of a computer network that are operated by a community of independent and unrelated entities, usually incentivized to provide computational resources to the network. The innovation of blockchain is that it guarantees the fidelity and security of the records of data it stores and generates trust without the need for a centralized controlling entity. 

The revolutionary power of such technology compares with the revolution sparked by the internet. Just as the internet is a means of sharing information, so blockchain technologies can be seen as a way to introduce the next level: sharing trust.

Fixing the broken data layer underlying the global labor market

The emerging contours of the new world of work are rapidly becoming a lived reality for millions of workers around the world. The opportunities for economic prosperity, societal progress and individual flourishing inherent in this new world of work are enormous. Yet they depend crucially on the ability of all concerned stakeholders to instigate reforms in education and training systems, labor market policies, business approaches to developing skills, employment arrangements and existing social contracts. 

Hiring people based on what they say about their own skills, identity and education credentials is terribly inefficient. Self-reported career records are unreliable and non-standardized. Misrepresentation is common. Verifying applicants’ and employees’ data requires manual, weeks-long processes that add unimaginable friction and cost to the labor market. As a matter of fact, today’s labor market’s data exchange infrastructure has more in common with the outdated postal service than with this generation’s digital world. 

It is clear that we need a new data-sharing architecture to replace the outdated, fragmented way talent represents their career reputation across the labor market via resumes and other self-reported online profiles. 

Blockchain technology has the power to overcome these challenges by letting individuals own their careers and personal information, rather than relying on LinkedIn and other third-party job boards which ultimately control an individual’s data.

The blockchain has the potential to radically change the way people navigate their careers and livelihoods and how employers make talent decisions. Ultimately, this technology — although still in its infancy — just might transform the job market. 

Dror Gurevich is the Founder and CEO of Velocity Career Labs™ and the Velocity Network Foundation®.

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