The Future of Work: Musings from the ITUC World Congress

As the world moves further and further into the 4threvolution, how people work and the nature of work also changes. The common adage that change is inevitable is truer to the future of work. The question that we have to collectively answer is ‘are we ready for this future?’ Do we know how this new world of work is going to look like? There is also a push for a new green deal which calls for transition to green energy. What do these new changes mean for workers in the industrialised and developing countries.

The question of the future of work calls for the involvement of both government and organized workers organizations in defining this future. Technological advances do not exist outside society but redefines societal experience. This has been an underlying factor through all revolutions connected to work. Humanity has always had to react and adopt to the inevitable change. The advances in ICT seems to have caught many out off guard especially organized labour and governments especially in the developing world.

It appears that Trade Unions across the world, especially in the age of the digital economy, should focus their collective bargaining initiatives towards preparing their members for the new world of work. Platform employers pose a challenge to how we define the employer and employee relationships. Therefore, it calls for the trade union movement as a collective to come up with new definitions of this relationship to fit it to the new context that we live in and are headed towards.

The push for retooling and upskilling those already in the work force should the main focus of the collective bargaining agenda of the trade union movement. Further, safe guards for enhanced job security become more of a necessity than ever before. While we cannot definitively say how the future of work would look like we can definitively define how people will relate to it. This is because it is becoming abundantly clear that with technological innovations, jobs have become more precarious more than ever. It therefore calls for putting up measures that ensure that job security is enhanced. This is a matter of national and global security.

Governments should, as a matter of urgency, move to put up the measures alluded to above. However, it can only do that if organized labour plays its part and neutralise the power capital. Governments across the world should reshape their education systems to meet the demands of the new work economy. We can only ensure that unemployment is tamed through collective efforts even when that effort is adversarial in nature.

How we transition from the current-past reality to the current-future reality will define how the future of work shapes society and the economy. Capacity building to respond to this current-future reality is more essential than ever. This includes building policies and social protection measures that are responsive to this new reality.

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