By Obioma C. Appolos
Considering its mandate of advancing social justice and promoting decent work by setting international labour standards, there is no doubt that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) (established in October, 1919), a watchdog of the world of work; is ensuring that the hardships of the world of work we may face in the future globally, do not take the humankind unawares.
That said, here is an early-warning-like statement from the ILO as it sets to mark its centenary anniversary; “The world of work is undergoing a profound transformation. Globalization and technological change are creating new paths to prosperity but are also disrupting existing work arrangements. “Climate change, shifting demographics, migration and changes in the organization of work will affect all societies, organizations, workers and enterprises. The demand for some jobs will change, other jobs will disappear and many may not resemble what they used to. The direction of these changes and the effects they will have on work will depend on our policies and actions, especially if we seek to shape the future of work that we want.”
If the foregoing job forecast is anything to go by, despite the ‘Digital and technological advances, including information and communication technologies that are creating new opportunities for workers and enterprises’, what hope do we have then?
In trying to forestall the sort of gloomy picture of what is to come in the job market, the ILO posed some soul-searching questions in order to draw the world’s attention to the impending crisis.
“Where will the jobs of the future come from and what will they look like? What is in store for the young people and what skills will they need? How can we ensure that all working arrangements are decent? How can we ensure that technology enhances human capacities rather than diminish them?
Through its rich findings, here are some key sectors identified by the ILO that are likely to generate the jobs of the future: “Green Jobs; Green jobs are one of the newest forms of work to emerge in the past 20 years. They aim to contribute to preserve and restore the environment.
“They can be found in sectors as varied as manufacturing and construction, fashion, renewable energy, electronics and waste management. Green jobs help to: Improve energy efficiency, Limit greenhouse gas emissions, Minimize waste and pollution, Protect and restore ecosystems, Support adaptation to climate change.The ILO estimates that the transition to a green economy could yield up to 60 million additional jobs over the next 15 years.
“The Care Economy: Care work includes health-care services, childcare, early childhood education, disability and long-term care, elder care and much more. With demographic change around the world and ageing populations in much of the developed world, the care economy holds some of the highest potential for creating the jobs of the future. According to ILO statistics, an estimated 269 million new jobs could be created if investment in education, health and social work doubled by 2030.
“The “Gig Economy” Technological innovations open up new opportunities to work remotely and online. “Gig economy” jobs, where workers have multiple short-term jobs or contracts with multiple employers online, rather than the traditional, more permanent single employer-employee relationship, provide opportunities for workers to earn income and for enterprises to organize work in new ways.
“Workers who might normally be excluded from the labour market – for example, on account of disability, care responsibilities or illness – have more opportunities to work. At the same time, ILO research has shown that many platform workers earn below the minimum wage. There are also concerns about the insecurity faced by these workers, as well as their working conditions.
“The ILO is leading research into many of the issues and questions raised by these new forms of working: What is the employment status of “crowdworkers’ and “on-demand” workers, who compete to accomplish tasks for employers on an ad-hoc basis? How can the fundamental rights of platform economy workers be guaranteed? What is needed to ensure these rights are respected? How can platform economy workers have their interests collectively represented so that they can bargain for better pay and working conditions? How can minimum conditions of employment (such as the minimum wage) be regulated? How can platform economy workers have access to adequate social protection? How does the growth of global crowd work affect efforts to ensure decent work?
“The Rural Economy : Rural development has been on the ILO’s agenda from the beginning. Since 1919, the ILO has adopted over 30 international labour standards that are of direct relevance to agriculture and rural development, covering rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue.
“The rural economy holds great potential for creating decent and productive jobs and contributes to sustainable development and economic growth. Moreover, with nearly 80% of the world’s poor living in rural areas, any changes that improve the livelihoods of rural populations will have an enormous impact on poverty alleviation by 2030 – the target date for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“Agriculture will remain the largest sector in many rural areas. Rural populations are also likely to benefit from a vibrant tourism and recreation economy. In addition, changes in the demographic structures of rural areas (young people moving to cities for work and education, while older people and families move out to rural areas) will have implications for the delivery of public services. Rural populations will age more rapidly than urban ones, leading to a likely increase in demand for care jobs outside of metropolitan areas. The care sector has great potential for creating the jobs of the future. Decent work in the rural economy was identified as a priority issue in 2014 and will remain so as the ILO moves into its next century.
“Global Supply Chains: The production and distribution of goods and services have become ever more complex. In the past, companies concentrated their output in specific countries or regions. These days, it is spread across transnational global networks that aim to maximize profit and minimize waste. Global supply chains have transformed the world economy in the last three decades. They have been an engine of growth and job creation, especially in the developing world.
“Jobs in global supply chains are as varied as the countries in which they are found and they have enabled more and more people to find employment. While a large number of these jobs can be replaced by machines, especially in light manufacturing, ILO research shows that, for now, this may not make economic sense in developing regions due to the comparatively high cost of machinery, the low cost of labour and the limited capacity to absorb new technology.
“But what about the future? The costs of machines decrease over time, making it viable to relocate much of this production. This could lead to the reconfiguration of global supply chains as developing regions lose jobs to machines in developed regions. The jobs lost and competition for those that remain may put downward pressure on wages and working conditions.”
Bearing in mind the important role the world of work plays in the life of every society, the ILO is aggressively leading the advocacy for social justice and a decent work for all. And through concerted efforts, she is proffering solution-oriented information and setting practicable labour standards for the common good of both governments and other employers of labour, employees and prospective employees… with a view to making the world of work, the human society and the future of mankind better and peaceful.