‘Countless opportunities’ for new people-centred workplace, but ‘decisive action’ critical

@ ILO/A. Mirza Workers of PT Toshiba Consumer Products Ind. assembling and manufacturing of electronic goods, such as television sets. Cikarang, Bekasi. Indonesia. (file)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

Unprecedented innovations in the world of work provide “countless opportunities” but unless they are embraced through action, inequality and uncertainty will only widen in the workplace, according to a landmark new International Labour Organization (ILO) report released on Tuesday.

“Countless opportunities lie ahead to improve the quality of working lives, expand choice, close the gender gap, (and) reverse the damages wreaked by global inequality”, the Global Commission on the Future of Work report stresses.

“Yet, none of this will happen by itself. Without decisive action we will be sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties,” the report continues.

Outlining the challenges posed by new technology, demography and climate change, the Global Commission calls for a collective, worldwide response to harness the shift for the good.

The report spells out that while artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will take jobs, these same technological advances, along with economic greening, have the potential to create employment for millions.

ILO calls for:

  • Universal guarantees protecting workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on working hours and safe workplaces.
  • Guaranteed life-long social protections from birth to old age.
  • A universal entitlement to life-long learning that enables people to skill, re-skill and up-skill.
  • Technological changes to boost decent work, including an international governance system for digital labour platforms.
  • Greater investments in green and rural economies.
  • A measurable agenda for gender equality.
  • Business incentives to encourage long-term investments.

“The issues highlighted in this report matter to people everywhere and to the planet”, declared ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “They may be challenging but we ignore them at our peril”.

Co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, the Global Commission showcased a human-centred agenda based on investing in people, work institutions and decent, sustainable employment.

Mr. Ramaphosa called the report “a vital contribution” to understanding the global nature of changes underway along with those still to come.

“The report should stimulate engagement and partnerships within and between national and regional jurisdictions to ensure that the global economy and global society becomes more equitable, just and inclusive”, he said.

The report is the culmination of a 15-month examination by the 27-member Commission, comprised of leading figures, including from business, think tanks, government and non-governmental organizations.

For his part, Mr. Löfven stressed that these sweeping changes create “many opportunities for more and better jobs”, adding that Governments, trade unions and employers must work together, to make economies and labour markets more inclusive.

“Such a social dialogue can help make globalization work for everyone”, asserted the co-chair.
The report also spotlighted ILO’s “unique role” in developing and delivering an international system with a “human-centred economic agenda”, and called on the UN’s labour agency to give urgent attention to implementing the report’s recommendations.

“The ILO’s mandate, bringing together governments, employers and workers from all parts of the world, means the organization is well suited to act as a compass and a guide in order to help open up new vistas for coming generations at work” concluded Mr. Ryder.

Created in 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War, ILO is commemorating 100 years of championing decent work and fair globalization.

You can read our story from earlier this month on the history and background of how the ILO came into being, here.

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