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The right way to approach the future of work is by making business, labour and government work together in a social dialogue as well as including multilateralism where countries work together, Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“The most negative reaction people usually have in the face of change is being left alone to handle a challenge by themselves,” Ryder said at a conference on the green economy taking place in Cape Town this week.
“If you have no institutional support, people will dig in their heels in the face of change.”
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He said climate change and environmental sustainability is one of the drivers of the future of work. Technology is another driver – the “threat” from automation, artificial intelligence (Ai) and robotics.
“People fear it will lead to a chronic situation of job scarcity. I, however, do not subscribe to the idea of ‘the end of work’,” said Ryder.
Another driver of the future of work he identified is the future of globalisation.
“We are hearing political and other speeches calling globalisation into question. That has a massive impact on the future of work,” he cautioned.
“It is also possible that young people and generations still coming might want something different from work than myself and my parents wanted.”
He further pointed out that the jobs of the future might not always geographically be where the old jobs were centred. The skills sets needed will likely not be the same either.
“We have to have explicit national processes and plans for change. Governments and trade unions have a role to play too. It is a mistake to think that if one just let the markets to the job, things will be worked out,” he said.
“If you just ‘let it happen’ you will have a difficult future to deal with. So, we have to deal with it now and deal with it together.”
READ: I, human: Why new blue-collar jobs will survive the rise of AI
Mthunzi Mdwaba, vice-president of the International Organisation of Employers, told delegates that behavioural change is very important when it comes to addressing the future of work.
“You have to divorce yourself from what you are accustomed to about the nature of work. Yet, I still see a lot of elements of denialism in this regard,” he explained.
“You have to face the reality that you have to change. As a business, if you stand still, something is going to happen to you.”
He added that the business sector needs an environment conducive to change and policy certainty.
“It is about skilling, reskilling and upskilling to deal with changes in the world of work,” he concluded.