Credit Picture CC(OECD/Marco Illuminati)

The OECD published “The Future of Work Employment Outlook 2019”. 

Change is underway, driven by digitalisation, globalization, and demographic changes, and will impact each and every way in which our society operates. While on the one hand these mega-trends can amplify our capacity to better our lives, on the other they also pose challenges, which need to be dealt with.

With estimates suggesting that 14% of jobs are at risk of disappearing completely in the next decades and 32% changing radically, middle skilled jobs are particularly exposed to the transformation, with the risk of a hollowing out of the middle class: automation works “from the middle out”. The transition will bring to the emergence of many lower quality jobs on one side, and to other with a high degree of knowledge intensity. The risk is that earning inequalities between low and high skilled workers will increase.

“Shaping a future of work that is more inclusive and rewarding calls for a Transition Agenda for a Future that Works for All- a whole-of-government approach that targets interventions on those who needs it most”

Traditional means of income support will need to be revised, as they leave out a great number of precarious workers, which will make up for a greater share of the labour force. In the context of a flexible job market, which will see an increase in the number of entries and exits, and the need for continuous modernization of skills and work practices, the design of new systems of workers protection will become pivotal to  the functioning of societies. 

Workers outside of the traditional form of contract are the one in the direst situation, as access to social protection is difficult for workers in non-standard employment; those who are falsely self-employed, finding themselves under the yoke of employers who don’t want to be held accountable for them. With little control over their wage and their working hours, they are the ones requiring more protection.

With non-traditional workers 50% less likely to be unionized, the emergence of monopsony in the labour market cannot be discarded, and with the instrument of collective bargaining lacking, changes to address the problem by providing the employees with more leverage are required.

Whilst the outlook discards universal basic income (UBI) as being too costly, this says nothing about its actual capacity to work as a solution. It is true that the main obstacle to the introduction of a UBI is to find its source of financing, but the measure’s design would help solving many of the problem arising in the labour market, as recent publications by the World Bank and the International Labour Organization pointed out.

Article reviewed by Dawn Howard.

More information at:

OECD, The Future of Work

About Daniele Fabbri

Daniele Fabbri has written 22 articles.