As we emerge bumpily from Covid-19 and lockdowns into the so-called New Normal, we have unparalleled opportunities to change and adapt - in the words of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign slogan, to Build Back Better. At the same time, unprecedented disruption and challenges loom large. These opportunities, disruptions and challenges are especially significant for the evolving world of work.
The pandemic has stimulated an increased focus on the future of work – from government, business, academia, the media, and from us all as citizens. In the UK, the opposition Labour Party’s appointment of a Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work raises the possibility of a future ministerial portfolio, demonstrating the significant shift in political attention and discourse around the future of work. (The Labour Party in Australia has made a similar appointment of a Shadow Minister for Innovation, Technology and the Future of Work.)
While Covid-19 might be a leading catalyst for changes to the world of work in the years ahead, it is only one of many drivers of change. Part 1 of this report identifies eight key drivers of change (technology, demographics, sustainability, the role of the state, globalisation, migration, Covid-19, and social trends) in society as a whole and specifically in the workplace. Alongside exploring these drivers of change, the report considers how these interconnected drivers are accelerating change to influence the what, where, from where, when, how, how much/how many, who and why of work.
Part 2 of the report identifies eight emerging themes (the labour market, regulation and enforcement, flexibility, resilience, socialisation and belonging, inequality and division, diversity and discrimination, and innovation) and considers the impact of the drivers of change on new jobs, old jobs, more jobs, fewer jobs.
Part 3 concludes the report with eight predictions for the future.
The aim of the report is to bring together key aspects of current thinking on the future of work in one place, identify emerging trends, and make predictions that will provoke ideas and prompt action. Throughout, the report identifies considerations for employers, government and policymakers.
This is a high-level report that does not attempt to capture all facets of the extensive and wide-ranging debate and discussion on the future of work. While the report includes data and charts showing historic and projected trends to illustrate examples, these are of course not guaranteed to predict the future and are used only as a guide.
James Davies, November 2021