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Academic year: 2023



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Colección Informes Número 03/2018

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© For this edition: Consejo Económico y Social. Spain. 2019 All rights reserved according to Spanish law

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1.1. Socio-demographic changes 18

1.2. Qualifications and skills 33



2.1. The debate on the replacement, creation and transformation

of employment 48

2.2. Demand for competences and qualifications: effects

in the composition of the demand for labour 55




1.1. Changes in the world of the work: a historic perspective 67 1.2. Technological changes and labour relations: challenges

and opportunities 77

1.3. Concerns about the future of work 91


2.1. The international standards and other instruments 94 2.2. The social dialogue and collective bargaining 106











process of changes with deep repercussions in the economy, work and society. The profound transformations caused by the application of new technologies, especially digital technology, has led to the appearance of new products and services, but a mu- tation in terms of ways of organizing work and production.

Said changes are occurring within the context of a strongly globalised and open economy - along with a large expansion of the financial economy, with everything being driven forward by development of the ICTs (financial and commercial digitalisation), and by institutional factors, which basically means the opening-up of economies to trade. Economic transnationalisation is largely becoming established via productive fragmentation expressed in the global value chains and organized around large trans- national companies, generating at least two well-known effects: the delocalization of activities from the developed economies to emerging economies, and a growing demand for competitiveness in these chains which, simultaneously, exerts pressure for a greater technological revolution in the productive processes.

In this context, in the last few years there has been an intensification of the con- cerns, analyses and debates on the effects of all of this on work per se, as it has been historically known and understood, as a factor of production, and obviously, in terms of employment, as the principal way of earning a living for the immense majority of the population. Although such concerns are not new, many experts and institutions are now analysing the impact of the current era of changes on work, both in terms of their implications in regard to how many —and which— jobs will be demanded in an economy undergoing constant and accelerated transformation, and also in terms of their consequences on the quality of jobs, and the role as an instrument for ensuring inclusion and social cohesion.

Said effects are also the subject of initiatives by supra-national organisations, out- standing amongst which is the ‘Initiative on the future of the work’ promoted by the international Labour Organisation (ILO) on its centenary in 2019, which forms part of the background to this report. The ILO has highlighted four questions (“the Centenary Conversations”) which, in general terms, come together in the role that work should continue to play as a mechanism for social integration in a knowledge economy (“Work and society”); in the orientation of policies in favour of inclusive technological change


which generalises its benefits (“Decent work for all”); in the challenges arising from the new forms of production and employment (“The organisation of work and pro- duction”); and in ensuring the governance of work, for which the ILO identifies as a key factor the processes of social dialogue between the governments and the workers’

and employers’ organisations (“The governance of work”).

The present report fits within these concerns, and for that reason attempts to adopt an overview of the main issues involved in all of these processes and to formulate proposals aligned with the challenges which have been observed.

In relation to the demand for work in the knowledge economy, some analysts state that 12 percent of jobs are potentially replaceable by technology in countries like Germany, Austria or Spain. These estimates emphasise the changes within the tasks and contents of many jobs, which will not necessarily disappear to the same degree, and they certainly add credence to the idea of the trend of job polarization in the developed economies which all experts have highlighted for some time now, with differences between countries.

In any event, it should not be overlooked that a range of analyses and studies high- light the potential for creation of new jobs in more dynamic economic environments favouring new investments. Two of the examples of potential job growth sectors are the green economy (green jobs), due to the investments that will be needed to provide the groundwork for more sustainable growth, and the care economy, because of the resources that will be required to care for an ageing attention.

A number of specialist bodies, such as the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), stress the importance of understanding the different ways in which technology is changing the world of work, via complex processes featur- ing the coexistence of substitution, creation and the transformation of jobs. And how this process is fundamental for shedding light on conclusions on the future of work1.

Thus, the focus should be on the public policies needed to address the challenges posed by all of these processes of change, from a dual perspective.

Firstly, it will be essential to take account of policies of an economic, industrial or R+D+I nature, including those facilitating the conditions for lasting and sustainable growth, ensuring adequate allocation of resources towards the productive economy, facilitating the creation of quality jobs, and enabling the adaptation of the productive system to the changes.

Secondly, it will be vital to forecast the qualifications and the skills needed, which will involve the training and employment policies capable of providing the people, the qualifications and skills reinforcing their employability; and the productive fabric the human resources required by an economy with the capacity of adaptation.


1 Cedefop, “People, machines, robots and skills”, Briefing note, 2017.


All of these policy spheres converge in the principle of decent work for all assumed within the ILO framework, and it will be important to project them within a developed economy and knowledge-based society.

Moreover, they should be within a framework of EU-wide strategies such as the one launched almost a decade ago by the European Commission on new skills for new jobs2, which featured three conclusions: that in the mid and long-term there is big potential for job creation in Europe; that the needs for capacities, competences and qualifications will increase in all job types and levels; and that it is necessary to guar- antee an improved match between the supply of capacities and labour market demand.

More recently, the European Pillar of Social Rights was approved and publicised by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The reasoning behind it included the rhythm and the scale of the changes in the world of work. This instrument is the expression of a political commitment from the European Union institutions and member states in relation with the drive towards a social Europe, and for this reason should be taken into account, in the framework of the EU strategies, within the set of instruments which make up the governance of work.

The implications of the profound changes taking place are not confined to issues of how much work and which jobs will be demanded by the economy in the coming decades, however important these may be. There are at least two further issues of equal importance which need to be considered in a report of this type.

The first relates to the work relationship itself, as legal instrumentation of the inter- change of work and remuneration (predominantly based on a formal, stable contractual relationship, and full-time), which remains the principal reference for the attribution of social protection rights. Trends such as the penetration of digital technology in the productive and social fabric are driving forward profound changes in the busi- ness organisation of activity and work, in terms of processes and methods. And not only in industry, but also in many service activities. Alongside the more well-known organizational changes in companies, viewed as classic productive and mercantile organisations (outsourcing, sub-contracting etc.), the ICTs enable the appearance of realities like the development of services managed via online platforms (crowdwork- ing), with quick dissemination in quite a lot of economies, which bring into question the basic tenets of classic labour relations.

The second is linked with the set of institutions, policies and instruments for inter- acting between the states, the markets and the citizens, which converge in the basic goals of guaranteeing balance and policy and social stability based on social cohesion and justice. This fundamental consensus forged in past decades the basis of an implicit

2 Communication from the Commission on New Skills for New Jobs Anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs, COM (2008) 868 final. And on more specific initiatives like that relating to ICT sills or E-skills. Communication of the Commission E-Skills for the 21st Century: Fostering Competitiveness, Growth and Jobs, COM (2007) 496 final.


legitimised social contract the democratic societies which arose in the wake of the conflicts of the twentieth century. It may be brought into question and could become threatened in a future scenario of loss of weighting and of the centrality of work in the economy and society.

From different fields there are warnings about the weakening of the social link caused to people in a scenario of this type, but also about the growing inequality which may arise from the trend of polarisation of jobs, more low-waged jobs (with an extreme manifestation in the phenomenon of labour poverty), and of a very different distribution of income and wealth generated in a capital-intensive economy with low labour-intensity. For this reason, it is appropriate to reflect on the challenges that the technological and organizational changes for work may project onto the systems of social protection, and, more broadly speaking, onto social cohesion. And, consequently, conduct a review of the main policies related with the prevention and elimination of the divides which may be generated, which essentially be redistributive and social policies.

The foregoing reflections meant that was advisable for the ESC to draft its own report with the purpose of analysing the implications for the future of work arising from a process of technological changes which is different in nature to previous his- toric phases, with which profound social and economic changes interact, and which converge in an international scenario marked by new phases of economic globalisation;

all of which is already visible in our reality.

The report is focussed on the evidence and debates on global and European levels on the challenges perceived. To establish this focus the report covers diagnostics, fundamentally based on available estimative analyses and forecasts, and enabling the formulation of a number of proposals.

This own-initiative report has been drafted so as to be consistent with and comple- mentary to other ESC reports which have touched upon, or which are being drafted, in linked and complementary fields, and which address challenges and challenges arising from junctures and processes of change with deep implications for work. These include the following: Report 3/2015, Vocational skills and employability; Report 1/2009, The educational system and human capital; Report 2/2015, The situation of R+D+i in Spain and impact on competitiveness and the employment; Report 4/2016, New habits of consumption, social and technological changes; and Report 3/2017, The digitalisation of the economy.

Moreover, the ESC hereby contributes to the initiatives carried out by other con- sultative institutions in our environment, who have been approaching these issues in their respective fields. These include the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in its recent Opinion on “The Future of the work”3, in which it refers to some

3 European Economic and Social Committee (EESC): Opinion on “Future of work – acquiring of ap- propriate knowledge and skills to meet the needs of future jobs” (SOC/570, 15 March 2018). This is the most recent of a series of EESC opinions looking at a complex issue from different perspectives,


of the many aspects involved, amongst them the new needs for skills and capacities (in particular the European Union’s New Skills Agenda and its framework for priority actions), the design of national skills strategies and the examples of good practices for the improvement of skills and professional retraining, the need to improv and adapt the systems of education and training, the inclusive careers guidance that should be adopted in the European and national strategies. It also refers to the policies to facil- itate the transition of citizens, companies and workers towards technological change, lifelong learning, the importance of the active employment policies, of vocational training and of the public employment services, labour mobility in Europe, the new needs opening up in labour relations and in social protection, the role in all this of regulation, of the social partners and collective bargaining, the participation of work- ers, or the contribution of the Structural Funds, in particular of the European Social Fund, in the goals involved.

inter-related and dynamic as is the future of work. Please also see the Opinion on “Provision and development of skills, including digital skills, in the context of new forms of work: new policies and changing roles and responsibilities” 2017, Opinion on “The changing nature of employment relation- ships and its impact on maintaining a living wage”, as well as the impact of the technological advances on the social security system and labour law”, 2016, and the Opinion on “The role and opportunities of social partners and other civil society organisations in the context of new forms of work’”, 2017.




in our societies. It is also the case, although they are very extended, that the outlook regarding said issues has differentiating traits according to whether we are speaking of industrialised, developed countries, the countries which have so-called emerging economies, or developing countries.

The warning differential in the face of the challenges and the opportunities posed for the future of the work is not just linked to the structural economic fabric and the degree of social development of each country, but also with the expectations vis a vis the impact forecast in each case for the main macro-trends which will continue to determine the future. The overarching global trends, which are not new but which in the majority of cases are significantly augmenting their pace, and which are con- centrated in four fields.

Firstly, the demographic and social changes underway, the projections for which point to profound asymmetries in the population structures between different regions of the world. And this with definite consequences for societies which require that certain minimum thresholds are kept for working-age population (supply of work) if they wish to reach or maintain certain levels of growth and well-being. As we shall observe below, the complex global socio-demographical reality indicates that while employment is not the sole issue involved in the future of the work, it is central to living expectations of the majority of the population, and it is also decisive for other social goods like unpaid work and the tenets for organisation and social development in terms of its level and share-out between men and women.

Secondly, globalization has been rapidly shaping the economy, society and work for decades now, and this will remain the case, with effects becoming increasingly profound, as denoted by the strength of the global value and supply chains, lead play- ers in many of the decisions of productive delocalization and relocalization between economic regions worldwide. The present and the future of employment in a large majority of countries, although with important differences, is closely intertwined with the rhythm and the characteristics of globalization, but also with the policies and instruments for its governance. Amongst the issues with greatest potential impact on present and future work, it will be essential to focus on policies and instruments capable of maximizing the benefits of globalization and of minimising the risks of


macro-systemic-type economic instability caused by the essential opening up and in- terconnection of the economies per se. Such risks, when they materialise, have dev- astating labour and social effects, even in the most robust economies, as was shown by the last financial crisis.

Another of the traits of globalisation is produced by the growing weighting of the financial economy on a world level, as indicated by facts including that international financial flows are bigger than those required to meet the requirements of the inter- national trade of goods and services4. In view of the importance seemingly acquired by investments with greater short-term profitability, which may even be inducing changes in the management models of certain large listed transnational companies, another lever with potential impact on the future of the work would be to drive for- ward policies to strengthen the traditional business culture consisting of “retaining and reinvesting” profit according to a long-term vision, something which would act positively on the rates of productive investment and job creation.

Thirdly, another long-running trend which has been decisively influencing the level and the characteristics of employment in many countries, and which all the experts and institutions agree will potentially be decisive for it in the future, is the process of technological change which is now in full and open acceleration. Obviously, the future of work will not only depend on the implementation of a wide range of technological innovations in the economic, social and business fabric, and even less so on some of the most spectacular advances such as automation or the robotization. But rather it will also be determined by other socio-economic macro-trends such as the aforemen- tioned ones and, of course, by the economic policies, of general and sectorial scope (responsible for the productive model, the capacity to generate high added-value goods and services), and the labour policies converging in what has come to be known as the governance of work.

But the extension and the speed of the technological innovations is undeniable, as is their penetration and development in all the productive sectors and in more and more companies. A number of analyses split into nine types the main technologies that are exerting most influence —and will do so in the future— in respect of changes to the models of production, of consumption and of lifestyle5. They are exponential,

4 See UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2017, “Beyond austerity: towards a global new deal”.

5 Martín Robles, J., Futurizable, Ediciones Puertollano, 2017. This term is used to refer to biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, new materials, virtual reality (augmented reality) and big data. There are many other references on emerging technologies their transforming potential. In many cases, it is a question of technological base don earlier types or on the result of processes of convergence of different technologies, for example, artificial intelligence in the cloud, quantic computing, or neurotechnology. The speed of appearance of new applications and techno- logical combinations has led to the publication of annual lists or monitoring updates of the emerging technologies. Please see, by way of example, MIT Technology Review, “Ten emerging technologies”, 2018 (https://www.technologyreview.es/listas/tecnologias-emerging/2018), World Economic Forum, Global Future Councils (https://www.weforum.org/communities/global-future-councils/).


because in a relatively short space of time they have leapt from uncertainty, from the laboratory, to multiple applications, because of the interaction and inter-relation be- tween them, and due to their application, to a greater or lesser degree, in all the fields.

Said technologies will shape the future of societies, of people and of work, opening up opportunities which today are still difficult to imagine. And we are not talking just about the level or the make-up of employment, the demand for qualifications, or about labour relations. But rather the very idea of work and of its consideration by society, of the attitude of people towards it, and of the effects on social organisation.

But account needs to be taken of other effects that have to be considered when it comes to adopting strategies to maximise their benefits and minimise certain risks.

The digital technologies minimise the cost of transmitting ideas, knowledge, know- how and technology to any point on Earth, and reduce the cost of coordinating complex activities which may be geographically far away. For this reason, they contribute to a trend towards fragmentation of the productive processes and to the delocalisation of the different phases, even at task-level, taking advantage of the international differenc- es in prices and wages. Thus, the world economy is increasingly becoming organised around the digitalised global value chains of large multinational companies, where companies and workers from all over the world compete to get involved, exteting downwards pressure on wages and working conditions6. Given that the digital economy transcends the national frameworks, making the countries’ socio-economic policies less effective, there will be a need to reinforce the instruments of governance which act in favour of the goal of decent work, both those based on the collective autonomy of the social partners and those of a legal nature.

Fourthly and lastly, it is vital not to overlook the possible consequences and effects for the future of employment accruing from the risks of climate change, but also from the opportunities opening up vis a vis policies to curtail it, insofar as these entail an entire energy and economic transition with wide-ranging repercussions for companies and the labour markets.

1. The labour supply in the context of globalisation

The first questions on the future of employment focus on the evolution of the labour supply in all its forms, that is to say, both from a purely quantitative point of view —in which the evolution of the main demographic components set the tone, and from a more qualitative perspective. The latter means it is necessary to reflect on primordial aspects such as supply profiles (especially in terms of training, of qualifications and skills) and their interaction with other important vectors of change in the field of productive organisation (such as digitalisation, automation, or the advances in artificial

6 See ESC Report 3/2017, Digitalization of the economy



intelligence) or of social organisation (cultural changes, and changes in the system of values which affect family models, women’s role in society, or the significance of work in people’s lives).

In the same way that the future of work cannot just be considered from a strictly national perspective, the supply of work has to be considered in the framework of globalisation and of the global opening-up of economies.

1.1.  Socio-demographic changes

Demographic dynamics will exert an influence on the future of employment, in refer- ence to workforce numbers and its geographic distribution. Account must be taken of the fact that there has been a slowdown in the growth rate of the world population, accompanied by rapid ageing. The supply of work, which is reducing in most of the regions, is dispersed and unequally distributed throughout the world. While Africa and south Asia still have large cohorts of young people of working age with high birth rates, the reduction of the active population may limit economic growth in the European Union, Japan, China and other many countries in the world. Amongst the developed countries, the only ones whose potentially active population will continue growing in the future will be those who maintain a sustained inward flow of migrants, like Australia, Canada and the United States7.

The population available to work in the future, amongst many other factors, will be linked to the manner of development of demographic change and the strategies for adaptation and harnessing its opportunities which are implemented. Also, the sit- uation and the evolution of the demographic patterns determining the quantity and characteristics of the workforce maintain a close relationship with the economic and social development reached in each part of the world. There is, therefore, a disparity in the demographic trends observed and forecast in the different geographic regions worldwide, according to United Nations projections. Taken as a whole, there is still validity to the demographic-economic paradox by means of which the birth rate falls to the extent that economic and social development increases.

At present, 90 percent of the world’s poverty is concentrated in areas which have still to complete their demographic transition8 and whose population continues to rise,

7 See Fotakis, C. and Peschner, J., Demographic change, human resources constraints and economic growth—

The EU challenge compared to other global players, European Commission (DG EMPL) Working paper 1/2015, 2015; ILO, The future of work Centenary Initiative, Issue Note Series. The future of labour sup- ply: demographics, migration, unpaid work; OECD/ILO/World Bank, G20 labour markets: Outlook, key challenges and policy responses, 2014.

8 The theory of demographic transition refers to the transition which, at different rhythms, the countries are experiencing vis a vis the change from the old demographic or preindustrial regime, characterized by high birth and mortality rates, to the modern demographic regime, with low birth and mortality rates. It is normally employed to explain or predict the likely demographic evolution of countries according to their level of economic development.


with a high proportion of young people facing difficulties in accessing jobs. In these regions, accelerating the demographic transition and facilitating the transition towards a lower birth rate is essential in order to eradicate poverty. This is closely linked with the improvement of education and training, access to health, and also progress in gender equality women’s socio-labour involvement. It is important to underscore the importance of investment in human capital as a factor for launching the demograph- ic transition which accompanies economic growth and technological progress, with access to education, especially for women, being an important motor of socio-demo- graphic and economic change9. This assumption forms part of the premisses of the global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals10, the degree of achievement of which in the coming decades will decisively influence the quantity, spatial distribution and characteristics of the supply of work in the world.

In the European Union, as in other of the most economically developed regions, the control and reduction of the birth rate, the fall in in-

fant mortality and the increase in the life expectancy are the main components of a long process of demographic change which has accompanied the region’s economic and

social development. An ageing population is one of the most visible expressions of these achievements (graph 1).

In regard to the impact of ageing in the world of the work, it should be recalled that increasingly longer lifespans has meant an enormous reduction in the number of years of a working life lost due to early death, such that each generation has increased its potential productivity. Linked to the foregoing is the contribution of the intense incorporation of women in the labour market, in parallel with falling birth rates.

It is forecast that this trend of the ageing of the active population will continue in the future, given that the generations of baby boomers will be employed for longer periods than their predecessors, both due to the progress recorded in terms of health and prevention of incapacity, and in terms of the circumstance of the progressive lengthening of the working life and the trend for delaying retirement stopping work- ing11. This will enable extracting greater benefit from the investment in training and work experience acquired, in coherence with the paradigm of the knowledge-based society which it is believed will preside over the future of work, as long as adequate promotion is given to lifelong learning. However, account should be taken of the fact that young people staying longer in the educational system and delaying joining the

9 See Becker, G. S.; Murphy, K. M. and Tamura, R., “Human capital, fertility and economic growth”, Journal of Political Economy, no. 98, 1990; or, more recently, Ranganathan, S.; Swain, R. B. and Sumpter, D. J. T., The demographic transition and economic growth: implications for development policy, 2015.

10 The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved in 2016 by the UN aspire to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030.

11 European Commission, Employment and social developments in Europe 2017.

The future supply of

work in the EU: less

and older


labour market entails a progressive reduction in their rates of employment, something that reinforces the trend towards the ageing of the working population.

In the mid and long-term, even the most optimistic scenario of increases in labour participation (for example, via a theoretical equalling of the rates of participation of women and men, and even considering scenarios of a considerably greater increase in migratory flows) would not manage to offset in quantitative terms the demographic fall in the volume of the working population, but rather it would just delay its effects. This would appear to indicate that in order to maintain economic growth and employment


Note: these figures should be taken with the caution logical to the intrinsic uncertainty of statistical population forecasts, which are not predictions, and which may alter if their starting assumptions do so. For this reason they are periodically reviewed and altered.

Source: Eurostat, Europop 2015.


similar to pre-crisis levels, a substantial increase of the European Union’s productivity will be required, via a more intense bet on education, training and R+D+i12.

In 2030, three-quarters of the world’s working-age population will come from Asia and Africa. Specifically, up to 2030, it is forecast that Africa will considerably increase the proportion of its population of working age (by around

5 percentage points). Meanwhile, Europe and Central Asia will experience a significant fall in the weighting of their labour supply in the set of the global supply of work, re- ducing from 16 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2030 (graph 2).

On a global scale, the labour supply faces a scenario of the worldwide division of work and of the unequal geographic distribution of well-being and opportunities, which display a close relationship with the moment of demographic evolution and of the change in the reproductive model of each global region. Starting from the premise that each country’s productive specialisation focusses on the goods which generate it greater comparative advantage, a clear association is observed between the evolu- tion of the demographic model and the sectorial economic structure of the different regions of the world. Against this background, in its initial phases, the international division of labour was supported by the productive specialisation caused by the divide between industrialised countries and the peripheric countries. The former, with low rates of fertility and, in comparable terms, high investment in education and human capital, led technological change, the production and export of manufactured goods.

The latter, characterised by not having completed neither their demographic transition

12 See European Commission, Employment and Social Developments in Europe. Annual Review 2017, and Fotakis, C. and Peschner, J., op. cit. and European Commission, Demography Report, 2015.

Imbalances in the global distribution of the workforce

GRAPH  2. WORKING-AGE POPULATION BY WORLD REGIONS, 2000 AND 2030 (In percentage over the total of working-age population in the world)

Source: ILO, based on the United Nations population projections, revised in 2015.


nor their process of industrialisation, with an abundant supply of barely-skilled labour, predominance of the primary sector and oriented to the production and export of raw materials.

Regarding the future of work in the world, the asynchrony of the demograph- ic changes in the different regions and, in particular, the scarcity of labour in the most economically developed countries could contribute to a deepening of certain of the tenets which have characterised the international division of labour. This would therefore entail even greater expansion of the already-noted trends at least since the last third of the twentieth century13 such as the moving of production (offshoring) or the sub-contracting of services (outsourcing) towards countries with an abundance of labour supply, lower wage and production costs, and, generally speaking, lower social and environmental standards.

Nevertheless, some changes are already being noted which could change the sce- nario of productive specialization on a world level, such as the increase of the middle classes and the expansion of the process of urbanization, or the gradual improvement of living standards, and of social and wage protection in some of the countries which have traditionally been the destinations of relocalizations. Account must be taken of the change in the role of some of them, which have made the transition from being mere manufacturers to becoming producers of new technologies and know-how, or the improvement of the qualifications of the population in certain emerging economies which have invested significant resources in their education systems, especially in Asia.

It should not be forgotten that the projections of loss of weighting and ageing of the population in today’s most economically developed regions (which in the next twenty years will undergo the retirement of the of the “baby-boom” generation), go hand-in-hand with forecasts for their loss of economic and cultural influence, which look set to shift more towards the east and towards the south. Precisely in this ge- ographic environment there are countries with important reserves of working-age population (the so-called “window of demographic opportunity”), which have un- dergone important improvements in maternal and child health and increased their investment in education and training. Some estimates predict that by 2030 the par- ticipation of the United States, Europe and Japan in global incomes will have fallen from 56 percent to half. This could have implications for the future of the work via a weakening of the European social model (economic prosperity with social rights) as one of the main global references, even if the emerging economies report growth14, and even if they incorporate the knowledge economy with less demanding labour and social standards.

13 Fröbel, F.; Heinrichs, J. and Kreye, O., The New International Division of Labour: Structural Unemployment in Industrialised Countries and Industrialisation in Developing Countries, Siglo XXI de España Editores, 1980.

14 See ESC Annual Report 2016, chapter I.


In the long-term, the imbalance in the spatial distribution of the working-age popu- lation may affect economic growth and employment to differing degrees, depending on the evolution in factors such as technological improvement, migratory movements and the promotion of education and the key skills for the future.

The labour slack in the most economically advanced countries must be made good, at least in part, by increases in productivity via new advances in the knowledge-based society, especially in the field of the new technologies, automation and artificial in- telligence15. The potential for expansion of robots is enormous16, although significant differences are observed in technological evolution and in the rhythm of automation, which may impact on the complex panorama of inequality and the global division of labour. In addition, the new technologies of production will propagate the relo- calization or internalisation of the highly labour intensive activities that were being delocalized, which will have a negative knock-on effect on the working population of the developing countries and on their economic and social situation, which could lead to an increase in emigration. However, simultaneously, digitalisation will enable relocating new specialized tasks for even more complex services in the developing countries, which already have a growing volume of highly-qualified workers.

In any event, the evolution of migrations —the most unpredictable component of the demographics— will have important consequences for the future of the work, impacting on the volume and the profiles of the working popula-

tion. According to ILO estimates; some 214 million people (around 3.1 percent of the world’s population and more than double the

figure for 25 years ago) live in a country which is not their country of origin17. The persistent economic, political and social inequality between the regions and countries of the world means it is likely that the mobility of people will continue growing in the coming decades, even increasing its complexity, given that the traditional classi- fications become less clear in practice, such as those which differentiated between sending, receiving and transit countries (an increasingly greater number of countries have all three characteristics) or between labour, economic or otherwise motivated migrations.

Account should be taken of the fact that in recent years, the phenomenon of mi- grations in global terms has been marked by the increase in forced displacements of population, especially by the increase in asylum and refuge seekers18. A large majority

15 It should not be forgotten that the expansion of the new key enabling technologies (KET) is accom- panied by a range of challenges from the standpoint of the organisation of work, labour relations and social rights, as shall be seen below in chapter II of this report.

16 International Federation of Robotics, World Robotics 2017, Industrial Robots (executive summary) and World Robotics 201, Service Robots (executive summary).

17 ILO, Centenary initiative. The future of work initiative. Issue Note 2: The future labour supply: demo- graphics, migration, unpaid work.

18 UNHCR, Global Trends Report. Forced displacement in 2015: forced to flee. At the end of 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people worldwide (5.8 million more than in 2014), of whom 21.3 million




of refugees are received by the Middle Eastern and African countries, although it is true that in recent years the developed countries have witnessed the largest arrival of asylum and refuge seekers since the Second World War, with a total of 3.5 million applications filed in 2015 and 2016. As the ILO highlights, the growing size of forced migration poses a series of challenges to the international community, with one of the foremost being the real and potential effect on the labour markets. Whilst there is increasingly broader consensus regarding the importance of the access of refugees and other forcibly displaced people to the labour markets, productive employment and decent work19, experience shows that it is a complex task.

For the period 2005-2050, ILO estimates predict a net volume of some 103 million international migrants towards the more developed regions. In purely quotative terms, said arrival of immigrants from regions with a positive demographic dividend could offset or attenuate the reduction of the population in the receiving countries (estimat- ed at around 74 million people). However, it should be recalled that, if the current profiles and traits of labour market participation of migrants is maintained, the latter could be more affected than local people by the changes in the future of work20. As the OECD highlights in the same report, foreign workers are more widely affected by the problem of unemployment; although there is significant heterogeneity between coun- tries. Moreover, it is noted that, given that less alternatives are available (in terms of family and social support, and training opportunities), especially in times of economic crisis, they display a higher propensity to accept worse working conditions, they are increasingly over-skilled, and are more exposed to seasonality and part-time work.

Linked to the foregoing, the OECD stresses the high concentration of foreign work- ers in jobs requiring no specific qualifications and dominated by routine tasks, that is to say, those which are at greatest risk of automation. In 2016, 47 percent of foreign workers in the European countries of the OECD were undertaking such activities.

In this respect, the OECD highlights in its report that, given the bigger difficulties faced by migrants in accessing retraining and skill development programmes, given the lack of specific policies to aid them, they could become more exposed to the cuts entailed by automation and their vulnerability to long-term unemployment. It will be necessary to see how these issues develop in future in relation with the competences of the workforce and the trend towards the polarization of employment, as shall be seen in section 2 of this chapter.

were refugees; 40.8 were internally displaced and 3.2 million, asylum seekers. In 2015, 86% of refugees were accepted by the countries of the Middle East and Africa, with Turkey in the lead, followed by Lebanon and Pakistan.

19 ILO, The access of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to the labour market. Reference document and project for ILO guiding principles for their discussion at the tripartite technical meeting on the access of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to the labour market, Geneva, 5-7 July 2016.

20 OECD, International Migration Outlook 2017. See chapter 2, “Labour market outcomes of migrants and integration policies in OECD countries”.


Within the migratory flows, labour mobility per se is worth specific consideration. Especially since the 1950s, in different parts of the world labour migrations have grown

between countries, or groups of countries, generally characterised by their geographic, historic or cultural proximity. Generally, such liberalization of the international mo- bility of labour has developed in a gradual way in the context of regional economic integration processes. There have been very few processes of this type which have led to the establishment of areas of free movement of workers, including full access to the labour market in equal conditions to the citizens of the receiving country. In the majority of the cases, such areas of free movement were set up in developed coun- tries in the OECD area. In total, according to this organisation, migrations developed under the auspices of free movement account for almost a quarter of total migratory movements with destination of OECD-area countries 21, with the European area in the European Union context being the most paradigmatic example of this type of areas 22.

Of course, the free movement of workers is one of the foundational principles and has contributed to the prosperity and to better matches in the jobs market in the European Union. According to a recent report published by the European Com- mission23, in 2016, 3.9 percent of the working-age population of the EU-28 resided in an EU member country different from their own: 11.8 million citizens of the EU-28, according to the Eurostat migratory statistics. These figures reflect a 5 percent increase in intra-EU mobility compared to 2015, continuing the growing trend of previous years. The availability of mobility directly linked with labour motives, that is to say, executed by people who are in work or looking for work, affected 4 percent of the active population of the EU-28 (9.1 million people, according to the EU Labour Force Survey). Germany and the United Kingdom, followed by Italy, Spain and France were the main receiving countries.

Aside from the free movement of workers, account should be taken of the sea- sonal mobility of workers in the European Union; undertaken in the framework of the freedom of provision of transnational of services and governed by its own legisla- tion24. Geographic mobility, affecting the workers sent by their company to another EU member state for a limited period of time, affected in 2016 1 percent of the European

21 OECD, Free Movement of Workers and Labour Adjustments. Recent experiences from OECD countries and the European Union, 2012.

22 Other examples in the OECD sphere are the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement between Australia and New Zealand, the MERCOSUR Agreement for free movement and residency, agreement free movement of workers between Switzerland and the Euro Area and, to a lesser degree, North American Free Trade Agreement.

23 European Commission, 2017 Annual Report on intra-EU labour mobility, January 2018.

24 Currently under review, the Directive on the posting of workers (Directive 96/71/CE), concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services, and the associated Directive relating to guaranteeing compliance with it (Directive 2014/67/EU), aimed at avoiding low-cost competition between local service providers.

Labour mobility


workforce (slightly more than 2 million workers), according to the aforementioned European Commission report.

Looking to the future, it would be worthwhile considering the capacity of labour mobility for contributing to alleviating the labour force and skills deficit in areas like the European Union where there is free movement of workers. However, according to the OECD, the similarity of the demographic trends between the countries and increasing economic convergence between regions limits the mid and long-term po- tential of geographic mobility in this framework in terms of meeting the needs of the labour market of the future. Moreover, it should be recalled there are still significant administrative barriers to the effective development of free movement of workers in the European Union, and that increased efforts in terms of harmonization are required so as to respond to the needs of the workers and the companies.

However, it should be recalled that the geographic mobility of workers within the borders of their country of residence can also play a role in the future from the standpoint of the processes of matching supply and demand25.

In conjunction with the foregoing, account must be taken of the fact that, besides the labour mobility channelled via systems or regions of free movement of people and of freedom of establishment, the countries most interested in attracting highly-quali- fied workers are increasingly adopting measures to facilitate their establishment and social integration in their territory, in what is known the global competition for talent.

In this context, in certain countries the supply of work could fall due to increased emigration to other places on the part of well-qualified professionals, attracted by better conditions and opportu- nities. In some cases this could give rise to decapitalisation of human resources in their countries of origin, or what has come to be known as the “diaspora” or “brain-drain”.

The rates of emigration of the highly-qualified section of the population (higher education) are higher than those for the population in general in almost all the coun- tries of origin, and this is a reflection of the selective nature of migrations26. To this is added the fact that the growing international mobility of students contributes to widening the range of destination countries for graduates. The G-20 countries register an average of 11 percent of international students enrolled on masters programmes and 17 percent on doctorate programmes.

25 By way of example, for the Spanish case, data from the Occupations Observatory relating to 2016 refer to statistics showing that since 2013 there has been an uninterrupted rise of contracts featuring inter-regional and inter-provincial mobility. The rates for inter-regional and inter-provincial (that is to say, the proportion of contracts involving displacement out of total contracts for the territory) in 2016 were, respectively, 13.2% and 8.9%. See Ministry of Employment and Social Security, Occupations Observatory, 2017. Basic Mobility Statistics. Hiring and geographic mobility of workers in Spain. Data for 2016.

26 OECD, World migration in figures, October 2013.

The brain-drain

and retirement of

professionals in

strategic sectors


The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are outstanding amongst the countries which receive highly-qualified migrants, two thirds of the total figure. India (2.2 million), China (1.7 million) and the Philippines (1.4 million) are the main sending countries, one in five of all highly-qualified migrants. In terms of the figure for migrants as a proportion of the total population with high educational achievements in each country, Kazakhstan (35 percent), Romania (23 percent), Poland (20 percent) and the United Kingdom (11 percent) show the highest rates. Whilst, for the most-populated Asian countries (India and China) the risk of loss of human capital due to “brain-drain”

is much lower (4 percent of graduates emigrate)27.

The ‘feminisation’ of emigration of the highly-qualified part of the population (over 52 percent are women) is a growing phenomenon, especially prevalent in some coun- tries of origin: the Philippines, Russia, Japan or Brazil, for example, make up over 60 percent of the total for emigrants having completed higher education.

In reality, according to the OECD, from the point of view of the labour supply, the brain-drain represents a serious problem solely for a limited number of countries. On the other hand, in the majority of the countries the increase of the general educa- tional level of the population and the rate for new graduates mitigates the effects of the growing number of emigrants with tertiary education. However, it is important to mention the implementation of national policies for the retention and return of migrant staff on the part of several sending countries of highly qualified workers, at times in the framework of promotion of the national strategies for science, innovation and entrepreneurship28.

Linked to the foregoing, account must be taken in the OECD framework, more than of the “brain-drain”, that certain problems of labour supply during the next 15-20 years may arise due to the retirement of an important part of the workers in certain strategic sectors with very specific requirements in for qualifications, such as teaching and health. In the first case, a lack of teachers will be noted due to the retirement of an important volume of teachers in the coming years and the need to substitute them. It is important to note the opportunities and the challenges emerging in the teaching sector in respect of the need to anticipate the generational takeover, via hiring younger staff in part, as well as regarding the need to ensure pedagogic retraining and adaptation tools for the teaching staff in order to transmit the competences and skills standing out as essential for the work of the future. In the health and social services sector in the European Union, in which the weighting of the workers over 50 went from 19 percent in 1998 to 34.6 percent in 201629, the problem of replacing retirees is

27 On the peculiarities of the Spanish case see, “The recent evolution of migratory flows in Spain”, Cuadernos del Consejo Económico y Social, Cauces, no. 32, ESC, 2014.

28 OECD, G20 global displacement and migration trends report 2017.

29 Eurostat, Labour Force Survey.


worsened by the fact that the demand will increase due to the advance of the process of ageing of the population.

The large population movements of the future will be related not only to the mi- gration between countries but also to the internal migratory flows linked to the intense

advance of the process of urbanisation worldwide. This is developing especially quickly in the regions with a high level of rurality at present, and these areas will undergo a process of abandonment and ageing which will harm the local labour markets 30. The cities are growing unstop- pably, with the 2030 forecast being that over half the world population will live in urban areas, while in 2050 almost two thirds of humanity will do so. With respect to 2000, in 2030 the urban population of Africa and Asia will have doubled. The massive countryside-city migrations in the developing and emerging countries, increasingly driven by the consequences of climate change, affect the composition of the workforce in the rural areas and in the primary sector, with a sharp increase in the proportion of elderly farmers. In addition, the processes of rapid urbanisation, alongside growth in the demand for services and infrastructures, also generate pockets of poverty and augment the concentration of the labour supply in the cities, with an impact on aspects including the size of the informal economy, wages and the working conditions.

In parallel, in the industrially developed countries, there is observation at the cur- rent time of the dynamics of deconcentration of urban population previously resident in the metropolitan centres. This process of peri-urbanisation may be due to causes related with the housing markets, the evolution of incomes, transport infrastructures, the evolution of habits and lifestyles, and also to the economic structure of said coun- tries. In any event, it is likely that this trend will impact upon the future of the work and its organisation in the cities, combining with the likely advance in other policies that can induce change in the productive organisation, such as those arising from the goals of decarbonization of the economy which, along with the development of policies like sustainable mobility, may give rise to more flexible strategies of organisation of work in terms of times and of the places where it is performed.

In any event, it should be taken into account that the information and communications technologies contribute to overcoming the spatial and time distances, even eliminating the need for proximity between housing and workplace or for physically travelling from one place to the other. The enormous possibilities opening up for working remotely may mean that physical journeys become unnecessary. These would be substituted by this type of “virtual migrations” classed within the diverse forms of teleworking, offshoring, crowd- working and other ways of working developed thanks to the digitalisation of the economy.

30 On the important consequences of this process in the specific Spanish case, see ESC Report 1/2018, Rural areas and their social and territorial structuring.

Internal migrations

and changes in

the processes of



The advance of technological changes and the attendant increase in productivity in- creasingly reduce the importance of the figure for working-age population —an aspect on which a purely demographic focus would be stressed— while making it clear there is a priority to pay attention to the quality of the labour supply and to the different options for the redistribution of jobs amongst the working population, and the in- creases in productivity produced by automation, innovation and economies of scale31. As we shall see in the next section of this report, focusing on the demand for work, the terms of this evolution will depend to a large degree, on the one hand, on the intensity of the thrust of the advanced jobs, which will entail a higher degree of complementarity with the process of automation and less risks of substitution and, on the other hand, on the speed with which social organisation and, in particular, the training and productive system —which must be increasingly closely connected—

evolve so as to foment the development of the new, complex and diverse competences required by the changing scenario of the world of the work.

Alongside the purely demographic determinants, the scenario of the labour supply of the future has to be addressed in terms of the evolution

of the levels of effective participation of the population in the labour markets. On a world level, in 2017, 58.5 per- cent of the working-age population worked32: 71.3 percent of men and 45.8 percent of women, with important vari- ations by global regions, basically in accordance with the

level of activity of the potentially active population and unemployment rates (table 1).

31 ILO, Report IV, Employment and social protection in the new demographic context, International Labour Conference, 102nd meeting, 2013.

32 ILO, ILOSTAT database, Employment-to-population ratio, November 2017.

The levels of participation in the labour market and their causes


(People aged between15 and 64, in work, expressed as a percentage of the total of population for each age range)

Total Men Women

% of the population of the region on the world population

Asia 59,6 74,5 44,4 57,4

Africa 59,3 68,4 50,5 13,3

Arab states 47,1 71,8 15,7 1,9

Latin America

and the Caribbean 58,8 71,8 46,4 8,6

North America 59,3 65,2 53,7 5,2

Europe and Central Asia 54,1 61,8 47 13,5

EU28 52,9 59,1 47 7,7

Source: ILO, ILOSTAT database, Employment-to-population ratio, November 2017..


One of the underlying causes of inactivity in the labour market is the lengthening of the periods of education or training —an issue we shall return to in section 1.2 of this chapter— in accordance with the goals set in the context of the international and national political strategies to improve people’s employability. One of the other reasons for unemployment is the extension of the diverse forms of unpaid work in the world33. According to the ILO, approximately 971 million people worldwide perform unpaid non-obligatory jobs. A contributory factor has been the rise of certain currents of change in social organisation and in the value system propitiated by other forms of personal realization and social participation, such as volunteering. However, most unpaid work consists of domestic production undertaken by women at home, with repercussions for their levels of labour market participation.

The persistence of unemployment as well as barriers to equal opportunities in their diverse manifestations are especially worrying in respect of the future of work.

In effect, the reflection on the interaction between the socio-demographic chang- es and the future of work cannot be decoupled from the debate on certain of the

personal characteristics of the active population and the apparently contradictory risks —but probably convergent in the future— such as falling structural unemployment, the increase in technological unemployment and the pro- fessional deficit in some sectors. If account is not taken of these issues, hypothetical- ly, the advance of the reduction and of the ageing of the active population will tend towards naturally “solving” the problem of unemployment —especially youth unem- ployment— in the developed countries which are most suffering from population loss at potentially active ages. In fact, the reduction in size of the active population which some of the world’s regions, like Europe, are already experiencing, is contributing to the effect of an increase in jobs although they do not necessarily increase to the same degree as the number of people employed. However, the unemployment rate in the majority of the European Union countries remains above pre-crisis levels and long- term unemployment is still a serious problem. The current size of the long-term un- employment problem may worsen the problems of labour supply in the future, due to the loss of employability and depreciation of skills caused by being outside the labour market for a long time.

The problem of unemployment is even more serious, in the developing countries in particular, since they still have a high volume of youth population, without enough training and work opportunities. On a world level, some 40 million people enter the labour market every year, such that, according ILO calculations, up to 2030 the world economy will need to create almost 520 million new jobs in order to absorb this increase in the working-age population, three-quarters of which will be from Asia and Africa.

33 See, ILO, Centenary Initiative The future of work. Issue Note 2, op. cit.

Unemployment in

the future: new risks

and opportunities


The ILO estimates that 70.9 million young people were unemployed worldwide in 201734. Young unemployed people today will form part of the potentially active popu- lation of the future, such that the still too high levels of unemployment in the world may cast a shadow on the outlook for the future of work. The high volume of young people who are currently not studying or working, not only in the developing coun- tries but even in some of the more advanced economies such as the European Union, presents a challenge of the first order.

Therefore, into addition to the purely quantitative reduction of the labour supply because of the advance of demographic ageing in the developed countries, there is the fact that part of the potentially existing supply will have been have had their possibil- ities of joining the labour market harmed due to long-term unemployment, if it is the case that insufficient efforts were made for their preparation to meet the requirements of an increasingly demanding requirements in terms of skills and knowledge. Thus, in the future, it will be possible that high levels of unemployment are perfectly compat- ible with significant workforce shortages, especially for certain jobs, as shall be seen in chapter II of this report, which focuses on the demand for work.

According to recent ILO35 documents, as opposed to what might be thought, and in spite of the advances in many of the countries of the world, the women’s labour market participation fell from 52.4 percent to 49.6 percent

between 1995 and 2015. Whilst part of this fall is due to women remaining longer in education, meaning their fu- ture work options are better, it is also true that alongside this positive trend other more worrying ones are noted

vis a vis the future of the women’s work options. Amongst the factors explaining this downward trend on a world level36, the ILO refers to the relatively higher risk of unemployment and greater difficulties faced by women in staying in a job, women voluntarily leaving the labour market for reasons linked to higher living standards, as well as the working conditions of the jobs available that do not offset the cost of op- portunity to women if they accept them.

Already, prior to the more recent initiatives to measure the well-being “above and beyond the GDP” 37, but specially based on the former, the value of domestic production has been the subject of different attempts to draw up the so-called “satellite accounts”

of the non-monetarised work from the different international or national institutions.

34 ILO, Global employment trends for youth 2017 (executive summary).

35 See ILO, Centenary initiative. The future of work. Issue Note2, op. cit.

36 On the specific peculiarities of the Spanish case and its recent evolution, see ESC, Report 5/2016, Women’s labour market participation in Spain.

37 See Stiglitz, J.; Sen, A. and Fitoussi, J. P., Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (specifically, Recommendation no. 5: Broaden income measures to non-market activities), published at the same time as a similar initiative by the OECD (Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies) and the Communication de the European Commission to the Council and European Parliament ‘GDP and beyond/ Beyond GDP’.

Labour participation

and equality between

women and men


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