Topic Cluster: Economy

The failures of governance which led to the 2008 global financial crisis and the ensuing recession have, following more than two decades of corporate globalisation, deepened inequality, destroyed millions of jobs, increased precarious work and informalisation, and fuelled a tide of disillusionment which is being exploited by populist politicians across the world. It has also placed the global economy itself on a highly precarious footing, with economic demand stagnating due to lack of purchasing power.

Debate about the future world of work needs to identify solutions to the enormous economic and political challenges facing society, and avoid being confined to the narrow perspective of new technologies being implanted into a system which is already failing working people. Nor should it be about an “old” economy where work was mainly done by people and a “new” economy where work is automated and the tasks of those who do have jobs are governed by algorithms and apps.

The ITUC Global Poll has consistently shown overwhelming support for action to rein in the power of global corporations and the finance sector, to ensure secure and decent jobs, a fair share for working people through wages and social protection and other key objectives of the union movement. Governments have however not heeded this sentiment. Unless this changes, the transition into the future world of work will be disorderly and corporate-dominated, deepening insecurity and inequality yet further.

Governments and business need to recognise that the transition into a highly digitalised economy must be a just transition, with investment in the occupations, sectors and communities affected to maximise the quality and productivity benefits, while ensuring that those whose jobs are affected or at risk receive the necessary support. It must also support development and sustainability, especially through close connection with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the transition to a zero carbon-zero poverty future.

For this to happen, urgent action, including by the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty, or G20, is a forum for international cooperation on the most important aspects of the international economic and financial agenda. It brings together 19 countries and the European Union, which together represent around 90% of global GDP, 80% of global trade and two thirds of the world’s population. , is needed across a range of key global challenges:

Wages and social protection – the world needs a pay rise: the falling wage share, with millions of workers in supply chains and the informal economy struggling even to survive, is causing untold misery and threatening the global economy itself as purchasing power stagnates. Unions across the world are campaigning for better wages, with a minimum living wage and extension of social protection to the 75% of the world’s workers who have no or insufficient social protection. Economic and social policies are needed to ensure a fairer distribution of income and wealth. The time has also come for an informed analysis of the benefits and costs of a basic income guarantee.

Closing the gender gap: the gender pay gap is the most tangible economic consequence of the systematic discrimination against women at work and in society that exists in every country. Where austerity policies have been imposed, it is women who have shouldered the heaviest burden, through unpaid work providing care and through disproportionate impacts on their incomes and opportunities. On current trends, the gender pay gap of 23% globally will not be closed until 2069. This alone demonstrates the gravity of gender discrimination and the absolute necessity for action to end it. The future of work must be a future where women and men are equal.

Taxation: rampant tax avoidance and evasion, especially by multinationals and the finance sector, is depriving governments of the revenue needed to deliver quality public services and social programmes. Stagnating wages and the “Uberisation” of work will mean that governments will be able to rely less and less on taxation of workers to make up for the low-to-zero taxes paid by the ultra-rich and many corporations. Privatisation and asset sales may provide governments with temporary fiscal relief, but at a huge cost to societies and economies. Tax justice is essential to ensuring that governments have the revenue needed to provide quality public services, social protection and the range of other functions that will shape the future of work based on social inclusion.

Investment in infrastructure and the care economy: the lack of infrastructure and the ageing of existing infrastructure in many countries is choking economic growth and hampering job creation. At the same time, demographic trends and inadequate existing provision are creating a time bomb in health and social care. Investment in the care economy and in infrastructure are not only vital to fix these problems – both types of investment create much-needed jobs and growth.

Climate change and industrial transformation: digitalisation at work offers tremendous potential to boost efficiency and replace carbon dependency with a renewables energy future. The global challenge to achieve a zero carbon zero poverty economy requires vision, commitment and courage by politicians and businesses alike. The key to achieving this is the agenda for a Just Transition, based on rights, social dialogue, investment in transition and negotiating change in industries and in the workplace that addresses climate change and creates the industrial transformation necessary to save humanity and the planet.

A coherent approach: In many countries, policies on digitalisation have been developed in government ministries responsible for technology with limited involvement from other ministries and little if any public consultation, leaving the private sector in the driving seat. This has begun to change, partly due to debates about the future of work, nevertheless only a few countries are undertaking the necessary “whole of government” approach along with engagement with trade unions and other relevant groups. Tripartite social dialogue must be at the centre of coherent and comprehensive approaches to the possibilities and challenges of digitalisation.

Trade and investment policies: The growing influence of populist and nationalist policies has had an impact on the international trade agenda, with many of the potential consequences not yet fully understood. While trade unions have mobilised against those elements of agreements which disempower workers and entrench corporate power over governments and that limit the space for good public policy making, the solutions offered by populists are not in the interests of working people. Provisions such as those contained in the proposed TiSA would lead to wholesale “Uberisation” of economies, and must be rejected.

Development: The adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals provides an agenda for development with decent work at its heart. The SDGs SDGs The Sustainable Development Goals were one of the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference. The members States launched a new set of future international development goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. must not remain simply an aspiration – they provide an important universal framework for decisions about the future of work, and it is important that the implementation of the SDGs SDGs The Sustainable Development Goals were one of the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference. The members States launched a new set of future international development goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. and decisions about the future of work, and in particular the role of government, are integrated.