Davos Agenda

What you need to know about work, wages and job creation

A supermarket delivery driver escorted by a university security guard, delivers food to university students, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 in Manchester, Britain, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble - RC2L7J9BFSJ8

The future of work is here. Image: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Samantha Sault
Writer, Washington DC and Geneva
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: The Jobs Reset Summit
  • Technology, the transition to a green economy and COVID-19 have disrupted work and accelerated the need for digital skills so workers can continue working today and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.
  • In addition to training, employers must invest in the health and safety of workers and rethink physical workplaces.
  • World Economic Forum initiatives are working to drive job creation, reskill workers and improve informal and 'platform' work.
  • Day 2 of the Jobs Reset Summit focuses on work, wages and job creation - subscribe to our podcast for daily coverage.

Even before COVID-19, workers and workplaces around the world were facing the potential for unprecedented levels of disruption.

Have you read?

The tech revolution and the need for a green revolution have created an urgent need to increase access to the skills, tools and financial services workers need for the jobs of tomorrow.

Emergence of clusters of professions of the future, 2020-2022
These are some of the fastest-growing professions of the future. We need skills to match. Image: World Economic Forum

Technology has also exacerbated gender gaps, with the largest “in roles that rely heavily on disruptive tech skills, with the share of women represented across cloud, engineering and data jobs below 30%,” as Allen Blue, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product Management for LinkedIn, wrote ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in January.

Weeks after that meeting, COVID-19 hit – causing widespread unemployment and disrupting every employer, every employee and every industry.

Initial unemployment claims COVID-19
U.S. unemployment claims in the COVID-19 pandemic Image: Business Insider

The pandemic has accelerated the transition to a digital economy – and for those who are able to work from home, the need for digital skills. For those who cannot work from home – such as workers in healthcare, emergency services or the food supply chain – there have been difficult decisions about whether to put yourself and your family at risk as you continue working, if you even have a job to go back to. And COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on workers in the informal economy, whose incomes have dropped as much as 81% in the first month of the pandemic in some regions, as well as on women, who account for 70% of health and social workers globally.

The bottom line? Disruption to workplaces was happening well before COVID-19 – but the pandemic increased the need for large-scale, informed and collaborative action to prepare for the future of work.

How to reset work, wages and job creation

“The future of work has already arrived for a large majority of the online white-collar workforce,” says the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 which is being published during the Jobs Reset Summit.

The report finds 84% of employers “are set to rapidly digitize working processes which includes a significant expansion of remote work – with the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely.” Microsoft and Twitter, as two examples, will allow some employees to work from home permanently even after the pandemic; many companies don't plan to return to the office until next summer at the earliest.

Commitment to working-from-home arrangements doubles
Working from home could become the norm for financial services companies after COVID-19. Image: PwC

“To address concerns about productivity and wellbeing, about a third of all employers expect to also take steps to create a sense of community, connection and belonging among employees through digital tools and to tackle the well-being challenges posed by the shift to remote work,” the report says.

For industries where working from home isn’t an option, investments are needed to protect workers and jobs. Most urgently, this includes providing workers' with PPE, as a recent Forum survey of manufacturing companies found, and possibly rethinking workspaces entirely. Then, employers need turn to challenges like reskilling, professional development and technical adoption.

What steps have you taken to protect your employees from COVID?
Employers have had to respond to the pandemic Image: World Economic Forum

The goal? Resilience.

“Digital technologies have been essential for safety, retooling, and ramping up,” Natan Linder, CEO of Tulip, told the Forum. “And that all starts with the workforce. Workers who can adapt their operations to changing conditions—whether sudden disruptions or naturally evolving markets—are the foundation of a resilient business.”


What is the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit?

What is the World Economic Forum and its partners doing?

  • Launched in January 2020 in Davos, in partnership with global governments and businesses, the Reskilling Revolution Platform aims to provide better jobs, education and skills to 1 billion people in the next 10 years to ensure they can access the jobs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • The Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators aim to create global and national public-private collaboration platforms to address skills gaps and reshape education and training for the future. They focus on lifelong learning and upskilling, proactive redeployment and re-employment, innovative skills funding models and skills anticipation/job market insight. The Forum has established accelerators in eight countries, with a goal to expand to 17 countries by the end of 2021.
  • The Global Future Council on the New Agenda for Work, Wages and Job Creation will develop new thinking and influence change and action across areas including investment in job creation, the future of temporary work arrangements, redefining quality and safety at work, work as a means of achieving fulfilment and dignity, active labour market policies, and a shift towards revaluing “essential” work through living wages.
  • The Promise of Platform Work identifies and commits to key principles to underpin good platform work. After publishing a charter in January 2020, the project convened a webinar at the height of the pandemic in April 2020 to determine best practices for companies and governments to protect and support platform workers during the crisis.
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Davos AgendaFuture of WorkFuture of Work
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