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Future of Work Focus Newsletter

Update on Future of Work Initiative

Deborah Greenfield, the ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Policy and Head of the Task Force on the Future of work, outlines the steps that the organization is taking to address the key issues that are facing the world of work.

News | 13 February 2018
© Science Photo Library/R3F
As the ILO approaches its centenary in 2019, we pause to reflect on progress made and draw out the lessons from our unique history. We have much to celebrate. Yet, as we look around us, we see that there is still much to be done. How do we equip the ILO and its constituents to take advantage of the opportunities that digitalization and automation create for the greater inclusion of enterprises and workers in the economy? How do we harness their potential to expand the choices available to balance work and private life and reduce working hours? How do we address the challenges that processes of technological, demographic and climate change present for our workplaces and our labour markets? How can we shape a future we want?

The ILO Director-General raised these questions when he launched the Future of Work Initiative, one of a number of Centenary Initiatives to guide the ILO’s work as the organization enters its second century in pursuit of its mandate for social justice.

The first stage of the Future of Work Initiative, carried out between 2016 and 2017, involved national dialogues between governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations. In some countries this included the participation of other groups, such as youth. These dialogues took place in over 110 member States, in both developed and developing countries. In addition, the ILO held a symposium at the ILO in April 2017 on “The Future of Work We Want”, which brought together 700 participants, including leading academics and representatives of the ILO tripartite constituents, to discuss the changes sweeping through the world of work and the possible policy responses.

The second stage of the ILO’s Future of Work Initiative began with the launch of an independent Global Commission on the Future of Work in August 2017. The Commission, chaired by the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, and the President of the Republic of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, brings together a diverse group of experts from around the globe. The Commission is undertaking an in-depth examination of the transformative changes occurring in the world of work in order to provide recommendations – to the ILO and to policy makers in general – for a future that provides decent and sustainable work opportunities for all.

To prepare the Global Commission for its first meeting on 20-22 October, the ILO Secretariat provided a Synthesis Report of the national dialogues to members, as well as an Inception Report that discusses major trends for the future of work. At its second meeting, on 15-17 February, the Commission will consider some of the thematic issues in more depth. The Commission will meet twice more in 2018 before releasing its Final Report in early 2019.

The ILO will continue to produce research and other policy-oriented knowledge products on issues related to the future of work. These will assist the Commission as well as deepen the understanding of complex issues for our constituents.

On the basis of the Commission’s Final Report, the 2019 International Labour Conference is expected to focus primarily on the Future of Work, in global tripartite discussions, with the aim of securing social justice for all in the years to come.