Table 4: A European agenda for the future of work


The thematic table started with the acknowledgement that the future of work is influenced by major trends such as globalisation, technological change and ageing societies.

Participants first discussed the question "How do you see the impact of technological change on the future of work?" They agreed that "we shouldn't be afraid of the new technologies, but we should be afraid of the old technologies." Technological change is having an effect on society, the way we live and work, on organisational models. Our society needs to prepare for it without delay and use it in a positive way. Participants also stressed the importance of looking at the quality of jobs created (both for economic reasons - more contributions to the welfare systems and increased public fiscal revenues - and for more competitive enterprises with higher skilled workers). They stressed the importance of prioritising investments in skills and R&D.

The second question was "As regards the new forms of work, how do you see the possible impact on social protection systems?" Participants considered that social protection needed to adapt to the new forms of work and cover people in their transitions into the labour market and within it; it must not leave anybody behind, women in particular. We need to think collectively about how to make the financing of social protection sustainable in the future and come up with some new innovative solutions. It is important to ensure that workers enter and remain in welfare systems, so it is necessary to accompany workers in transition periods from one job to another. Social protection systems need to be linked to active labour market policies. Special attention needs to be paid to young people, who are those most exposed to fragmented working periods and therefore make less social contributions, which might affect their future pensions.

The third question was "How do you think the transition to the future of work can be best managed in such a way that potentials of digitalisation can be unlocked while its pitfalls are avoided and mitigated?"  Participants thought that social dialogue was a key tool. It is important to strengthen collective bargaining systems, while respecting the autonomy of social partners and taking the best aspects of the various existing national practices. Monitoring and evaluation of policies is also important. Participants underlined the need to collectively manage the potential of digitalisation, use synergies, monitor risks on health and safety and work together on flexible arrangements. At the same time, it is necessary to look at how societies are changing with the impact of digitalisation and data use and control.

The last question debated was "What is important as regards skilling/ upskilling/reskilling and lifelong learning?" Participants considered that investments in quality and inclusive education at all levels are needed. The importance of lifelong learning (LLL), reskilling, upskilling was underlined. Participants agreed on the need to ensure access to lifelong learning with a shared responsibility, looking at best practices in some countries. Finally, contributors also discussed the issues of the validation of informal learning, the attractiveness of VET (vocational education and training), the link between education institutions, enterprise, the world of work, and the financing of LLL. They also stressed the importance of investing in vocational training and avoiding the risk of marginalisation of disadvantaged groups such as low-skilled workers, long-term unemployed and women.

Chair: Eve Päärendson (EESC member)
Rapporteur: Franca Salis Madinier (EESC member)