Progress in future work or future work in progress?

On Tuesday the OECD and the German Minister of Labour presented the OECD’S new job strategy which takes into account rising inequalities and technological changes, demographic changes and other so called mega trends. The term resilient markets cropped up again as one of the key buzz words. What makes them resilient in times of global competition?  The “inevitable” ingredients – such as the necessary level of competitiveness and productivity - were on the table, although the real impact of the technological revolution has yet to be seen. What we do know is that around 9% of current jobs are really under threat and that around 25% will require new qualifications. Demographic changes and an increased dependence on external consumption are other ingredients.

There is not much to say about such analysis except that this was a missed opportunity to link the SDG 2030 Agenda to the new job strategy. Furthermore there is huge consensus on the need for investment in skills, competences and lifelong learning, which needs to be proposed and financed.

The usual issues of taxation of robotics and industrial machines, of financial speculation (FTT) are not amongst the recommendations, but the Progressives should raise them. It is a matter of a progressive definition of the quality and place of work in our future societies and for our future generations in light of three key elements: a critical fear of possible negative consequences, a blind trust in the capacity of companies and societies to absorb the changes, and indifference.

Looking back at the technological changes over the last 30 to 40 years reminds us of the pace of such developments. Artificial intelligence is just beginning, platform and click work are developing and the further automatisation of other sectors, outside the classic productive sectors, is on the way. It looks as though no sector that will be exempted. Between blind trust and unqualified fear, Progressives have to rethink their idea of place, of work-life (balance) and the use and abuse of new technologies. Equal opportunities, equal access, and social protection for all forms of employment can be among the ingredients of a new European social model. To finance it: collective contributions by those who make money – in other words tax justice. If the European Pillar of Social Rights supports such a development, we will have at least achieved something.