Hope for the future of work

23 January 2019 06:53

After two years of intense work, the Commission on the Future of Work, established by the ILO and co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, released its report on January 22, 2019.

The report calls for a decisive human role in shaping the future of work. Particularly, in recent decades, the market and powerful actors in the market have been determining the direction of the global economy. That, in turn, has shaped the organization of work as well as the use of new technology in the workplace.

The Commission proposes a “human-centred” agenda that would actively include workers and communities. That would enhance the role of workers and their trade unions in the process of change rather than the much more limited, current, too common process of isolated workers having to adapt to changes wholly decided by others.

The report has three pillars:

* Investing in people’s capacities;

* Investing in the institutions of work; and

* Investing in decent and sustainable work.

These pillars are developed, not in detail, but in principle. They will, however, enable fruitful discussions and elaboration at national and international levels if there is the will to examine a new approach.

It has some far-reaching concepts, including a Universal Labour Guarantee that would provide for organising and bargaining rights and other fundamental human rights for workers regardless of employment status.

It would also build on the work that has already been done in the ILO to have universal coverage of social protections. These would be developed in such a way that they would not depend on one, particular job, but could be retained by workers their families throughout their lives.

The Commission also seeks a human role in the introduction and use of technology so, again, the inevitability of certain changes would be questioned.

It would provide for a “right” to life-long learning.

It also sees changes in work as opportunities to seriously address intractable problems in current globalisation like inequality, gender equity and inclusion in employment through the re-design of work.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson acclaimed the report, saying, “This is a great beginning for a badly needed global exchange on what is happening with jobs that is centred on workers and the direction in which our communities are heading. It is an excellent basis to begin discussions with other international bodies within and beyond the UN system as well as for national debates that involve trade unions, employers, and governments.”

Yuson added, “we fully understand that that the Commission’s recommendations are far from self-implementing. The report parallels many of BWIs strategies for connecting the world in our industries and leveraging progress. In fact, mobilising for the principles in this report is a very good fit with our ongoing strategies.”