Future of Work - Major trends

People increasingly think that hard work doesn’t pay off

Having access to decent employment opportunities is a major structural element of the social contract. It shapes the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers, fostering social mobility and in turn a fair distribution of resources and power in a society. Yet, survey data reveals that people are rather pessimistic that one can get ahead by working hard – and in most regions more so than they were a decade ago. This pessimism is particularly pronounced in Europe and Central Asia where more than one-quarter of individuals surveyed think they cannot get ahead by working hard.

Figure: Share of respondents who think people cannot get ahead by working hard, 2006 and 2016 (percentages)

Note: Survey respondents were asked: “Can people get ahead in this country by working hard or not?”. The chart displays the percentage of respondents who said “no”.
Source: ILO calculations based on Gallup World Poll.
The fact that many people do not think that working hard will improve their situation is particularly worrying. In fact, such a view may discourage individual investments in education and training – with important negative repercussions for dependents – while also incentivizing outward, skilled migration – with significant implications for countries’ productive capacity and development path.