A very expert global panel convened at the ILO conference in Geneva on 14 June examined issues around how to produce decent jobs in the future.
Some of the key points to come out of the forum were:
What kind of policy innovations are needed?
Skills requirements are changing, so education and skilling are not just for when people lose jobs, (which comes too late). There needs to be new learning well before jobs are lost, as people need time to adapt.
Discussion at the forum included how to make learning more fun and relevant to people. There were various initiatives reported from around the world to accelerate learning new skills.
There is seen to be a need for a culture of responsibility. In a developed country scenario, individuals and entrepreneurs may be particularly responsible to think for themselves, without micro managing this. Stakeholders are the obvious people there to run things.
The discussion in the forum was not so specific on types of skills to be learned. It is our view at Clarkslegal and Forbury People that a lot of effort should be put into educating employees to become entrepreneurs and start businesses. This needs to be done by capable people who can teach business skills, and this will not be suitable learning for everyone, but if a proportion of displaced employees can successfully start businesses then this may flow through to some jobs for others too.
This approach places much more emphasis on the development of strong SME cultures, which enable wider diversity of economies and less dependence on dominant traditional sectors which may be most vulnerable to innovation and disruption. Some of these new businesses may hopefully be in the sustainability sector to do good in the world by improving the environment as well as creating jobs. This is something in particular to aim at involving young people in starting businesses, rather than assuming their working life is what earlier generations have done. However, there is no age limit on starting a new enterprise and with the right help and sharing of expertise it may suit older people well. The development of new enterprises by women will also undoubtedly produce many good businesses, so business skills and coaching should be available for all regardless of gender.
Finance for start-up businesses is always difficult to obtain, so part of the solution is finding money to help establish new enterprises according to suitable criteria of responsible business planning. That may be a mix of public and private resources, including appropriate contribution by businesses displacing employees. Moreover, SME growth always needs a suitable ecosystem of support for maximum potential to be fulfilled. This can be developed by a combination of resources from both public and private sectors.
The new world of work is a massive challenge to provide meaningful and decent work for people displaced from their work by technology, but with vision and strategic collaboration it is our view that it need not be a catastrophe and economies may grow stronger for it.