White Paper

The ‘Future of Work’ white paper discusses major structural shifts that are currently reshaping the world of work such as globalisation, diversity, technology, new production patterns and people’s new expectations regarding job and career. The Paper provides suggestions on how to tackle these issues and, ultimately, calls upon policymakers to adapt legislation accordingly.

The end of work as we knew it

While the 20th century was largely characterised by the white male breadwinner, diversity is driving today’s workforce. It is important to take into account the many kinds of labour markets and working arrangements such as wage earners, self-employment, art-work, family work and teleworking. Being a full time employee should not be seen as the common standard anymore.

Implications and challenges: Due to the diversity of the workforce, the one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable anymore. There is an increased variety of employment contracts and conditions that cover a wide range of situations including on-demand, on-call, casual or intermittent, project contracts, job-sharing and voucher-based work.

Policy recommendations: A policy environment that promotes a variety of contractual arrangements is a way to increase labour market participation and inclusion. Only a modernised employment regulation can reflect the changing nature of work and, in particular, the rise of online workers. The full impact of workforce changes occurring due to technological disruption, demographic changes and business innovation should be assessed and taken into consideration. In addition, fostering more flexible and decentralised working conditions could attract vulnerable groups to the labour market.

Towards a new social deal

We are facing a new industrial revolution where technology and globalised, interconnected service-oriented labour markets are changing the very nature of work. We are moving away from the industrial age into the digital age, which has changed the way we work at its core.

Online talent platforms are creating new avenues for accessing work, building professional experience and reputation and generating income. Some people are freelancing by choice, relishing the opportunity to set their own schedules, choose their assignments and work independently.

Implications and Challenges: The notion of ‘working time’ needs to be redefined specially because of the increasing mix between work and personal life. Digitisation and an expanded international division of labour mean we are more interconnected than ever. Communication and enhanced coordination processes within groups which are active worldwide but also between different companies are more and more common today.

Technology offers a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs and society to constantly innovate and start new businesses. However, the nature and speed of technological innovation is creating a major disruption in the world of work.

Policy recommendations: The policy approach to equipping governments and companies alike with the right skill sets to adapt to technological changes should be redesigned. This will minimise skill mismatches and reduce the challenges associated with the speed and unpredictability of technological disruption.

Towards extended companies

In order to respond to the rise of the on-demand globalised economy, production patterns have been reorganised to gain flexibility and agility. A newly emerging model of industrial production involves short runs of mass-customised goods and services, the global fragmentation of value chains and the blurring of boundaries between producers, sellers and consumers.

Implications and Challenges: The value of workers is no longer tied to processes that can be automated but to non-repetitive and interactive contributions that are related to humans. Post-industrial economies do not need physical strength. Instead, they need ability to cooperate and adapt to new and diverse situations. Workers have a series of specialist skills which they use in carrying out a project or series of tasks.

Policy recommendations: Policymakers need to ensure that the dynamic potential of the sharing and collaborative economy is not hindered by strict and outdated rules. New enforceable regulations capable of supporting and protecting all stakeholders in the collaborative economy should be created, with the need to eliminate the legal uncertainties that follow the transnational nature of this type of companies.

Simplifying the complexity

For companies, the regulatory environment for doing business is getting ever so complex as they face an increasingly wide and overlapping range of soft regulation. This is creating governance issues for the business world when it comes to labour management, as it is more difficult for companies to get a full understanding of the regulation and ethical principles they have to comply with, especially regarding the management of their global supply chains.

Implications & Challenges: Intertwined labour markets request more supra-national regulation. In order to reconcile the universal complexity of the labour market, it is clear that, while respecting national differences, international policymakers will have to play a greater role in setting guiding principles and rules in the future.

Policy recommendations: In this complex economic environment, policymakers should not add unnecessary burdens and constraints on the business world. On the contrary, they should create easy-to-understand, employment-friendly labour laws. When it comes to the employment and recruitment industry, research by the World Employment Confederation shows that countries that have adopted smart regulation for this sector are more competitive delivering flexibility and security for both companies and workers.

Executive Summary

White Paper