IGF 2021 HIGH LEVEL EXCHANGE PANEL: Building equitable employment conditions and competences for the future of work

Monday, 6th December, 2021 (15:30 UTC) - Monday, 6th December, 2021 (16:30 UTC)
Plenary Room

With emerging technologies already impacting the global labour market and some of their practical applications and risks still to be discovered, acquiring talent, and maintaining employees competent to deal with technological developments is strategically important. Access to technologies will tend to be less of a challenge than finding the manpower able to exploit them. Talent drains are common in the digital sector, as is difficulty finding the equitable conditions to manage labour-employer relationships.

The future of work will face several changes: a shift in demand away from office support positions, machine operators and other occupations, edging towards ICT professionals; a move from more stable relationships in employment to independent, flexible or freelance employment deprived of traditional social protection benefits; a need for constant updating of skills to keep pace with evolutions in technology; a transfer of human capacities to more reflective, creative, and complex tasks rather than repetitive and labour-intensive ones. 

However, the impact of these new technologies on labour markets and income distribution is not predetermined. The right policy mix and institutional arrangements can ensure that the benefits of innovation are shared broadly, which is an essential step to achieving the SDGs. Governments, as well as international organizations, should work together on an approach that facilitates the adoption and diffusion of new technologies while addressing their negative consequences.

Our daily work has become not only more dependent on digital skills, but also more mobile and less dependent on geography. This challenges us to create new forms of management and to refine the balance of remote work relationships. The so-called gig economy and its implication of unstable work conditions is a related issue. A discussion is pending on how to better address the challenge of permanent employment being increasingly substituted by temporary work, and a single employer being replaced by multiple concurrent ones, in ways that affect traditional workforce protections.

The discussion will focus on policy alternatives, from educational ones addressing early education (including STEM-focused) and constant reskilling for future employment, to ones dealing with new forms of balancing in employment relationships. The panel will reflect on policies that can help employees and society at large to manage the transition with as little disruption and as many benefits as possible.