Part 1 of the report identifies eight interconnected drivers accelerating unprecedented changes in society and work. This Part 1 of the report also considers how the eight drivers of change will influence the how, how much, what, where, who, when, from where and why of work.
Covid-19 is a new phenomenon that was unforeseen, at least by most people. Technology and sustainability have been driving change for some time, but their significance is accelerating at pace. The other drivers – demographics, globalisation, the role of the state, migration, and social trends – have been underlying factors in generating change for some time and are continuing to shape the future, including the future of work.
The world of work is continually evolving. Looking back to the early 1960s, most workplaces looked very different. The world of work was based on gender-stereotypical occupations and a lack of diversity, typified by white men employed in factories 9am to 5pm five days a week. Since then, the number of economically active women has doubled and the numbers employed in manufacturing and construction have reduced from 40% to 15% of the workforce, while the self-employed relative to the employed have also roughly doubled. Individual employment rights, including discrimination laws, were only introduced during the intervening years.
Covid-19 cases were first recorded in the UK in February 2020. At that time, a pandemic would not have appeared on many people’s list of the most significant drivers of change. New drivers will emerge in the years ahead, whether foreseeable or not, to effect change in novel ways.
While technological advances are transforming many aspects of life and will continue to do so, perhaps the most significant driver of change will be the climate emergency. Alongside current steps to reduce carbon dioxide and methane emissions, we may soon start to see climate change itself playing a greater role. Rising sea levels and changing weather will drive change in the “where” of work as locations suitable for farming change, businesses relocate to places less at threat from extreme weather or rising sea levels, and people flee the economic consequences of climate change.
Employers and employees, as well as law and policy makers, will need to innovate and adapt to meet these changes. As the former UK prime minister Harold Wilson once said (in an era when using gender-neutral terms was less important): “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”
The eight drivers of change will influence the how, how much, what, where, who, when, from where and why of work.