Can you predict the future of work?
There’s never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education, because these people can use technology to create and capture value. However, there’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.
‘On demand’ work is on the rise as is a ‘project-focused’ approach to work. What has been referred to as the ‘Hollywood model’ is a discernible trend across numerous sectors. This novel fluidity of work puts a premium on personal initiative and professional resilience. The link between employer and employee is being loosened, and this has repercussions for both. For employers who have to operate in a global context of high economic uncertainty, investing in the systematic development of their staff is often a challenge. This is particularly so in the case of temporary or contract staff. At the same time, it matters hugely to a company’s success to be able to access a workforce with directly usable skills and qualifications.
As for workers, the burden of employment is shifted to her/his abilities to adapt and remain relevant, and to ensure adequate access to welfare, decent and fair work conditions and sustainable employment protection. While many are driven by the preference for agency and autonomy, not all workers have the tools to be equally self-resilient nor to sustainably tackle societal, personal and professional risks. Access to up- and re-skilling opportunities that have currency on the job-market, and to adequate welfare protection are the most fundamental challenges that workers and job seekers are confronted with in the changing world of work.
In recent years, the polarisation of today’s workforce between highly-skilled, well-paid jobs and lower-paid, low-skilled ones has intensified. Meanwhile, the share of the low-educated is contracting across all major occupational groups, even in ‘elementary occupations’ where it fell by four percentage points between 2008 and 2012. Such an environment may compound the efficient matching of skills and jobs available in Europe.
The risks of growing polarisation and displacement can be addressed by bolstering the resilience of workers through re-skilling and up-skilling opportunities throughout one’s life, especially at a time when career transitions and self- or temporary employment are increasingly the new normal. In-work access to training, based on European Commission findings in a 2016 report on key economic trends, remains highly dependent on the type of contract: almost one in two employees on permanent contracts receive training compared to 32% of employees with fixed contracts and 19% of self-employed. Thus, it is often the case that those who need life-long training the most are those who have the least access to it.
Luckily, in today’s day and age, pour your heart into it and you can easily reconvert; it’s only ageism you’re left to conquer.