Study presentation: Measuring Tomorrow’s Work and Economy

The barriers to getting into employment is not training – but the quality of available employment

On 24 October, Dropbox France and Das Progressive Zentrum hosted a debate on the new study ‚Measuring tomorrow’s work and economy‘ with Nicolas Colin, co-founder & director at The Family, and Barry Colfer, author at Progressive Britain.

On 24 October, Dropbox France hosted an exchange of views on the findings and recommendations of the report ‘Measuring tomorrow’s work and economy’. One of the authors, Barry Colfer, provided a summary of the report’s methodology, findings and recommendations and of the key debates surrounding it – namely regarding the impact of new technologies on the nature of work in Europe. The study draws on the views of some 50 senior voices from business, academia and public policy in France, Germany, the UK, and EU-level, obtained through semi-structured interviews that took place in the first half of 2019. Co-founder and director of ‘The Family’ Nicolas Colin responded to the key findings of the report, which was followed by an open Q&A with participants.

Key arguments and points of discussion: transformation numérique and the need for a new social contract

The report presents a range of ideas for how to harness the potential of new technologies, and for how public policy reform can best address the social and economic risks posed by the impact of digitalisation on work. Four major challenges that should be central to the public policy discussion on the future of work were discussed, namely:

  1. the need for an inclusive digital transformation to support individuals and communities that may be at risk of falling behind;
  2. the need for focused, advanced and ongoing training and up-skilling;
  3. the need to foster the growth and innovation potential in the economy, which may challenge traditional management models and
  4. the fact that clearly, ‘one size does not fit all’, and a broad and robust policy agenda is required to address the economic imbalances within countries and regions. 

Co-founder and director of ‘The Family’ Nicolas Colin drew attention to the many obstacles facing start-ups in France in the context of the ‘transformation numérique’ (digitalisation). He highlighted how, to date ‘Europe’ doesn’t exist for start-ups’, as entrepreneurs are typically focused on the local level. Beyond that, there is limited connectedness and networking between start-up entrepreneurs across different parts of Europe, and European cities, which undermines the possibility of Europe being a centre for start-up activity and excellence.  

The core of the business is still – and shall remain – human relations, or what Colin refers to as ‘services de proximités‘ (proximity services).

In summary, the barriers to getting into employment, argues Colin, is not training – but the quality of available employment, and it is here where policy-makers should focus attention, in fostering and supporting the creation of high-quality employment. As Colin has previously written, he also pointed towards the need for a ‘new social contract’ to better meet the needs of society, one that better reflects the needs of people today. Unlike 75 years ago, modern society does not (thankfully) have the trauma of war to serve as a catalyst, and policy-makers and stakeholders must find creative responses that create value by themselves. Concluding, Colin picked up Colfer’s final point, by emphasising how the EU’s scope in legislating in the field of social protection is limited, but that the EU institutions must still coordinate their efforts more effectively, as responsibility for this field is still spread across at least three Commission Directorates General. The discussions focused on the need to find solutions to stress and burnout and work, and on how digital technologies can provide opportunities for self-management, collaboration, and liberation from routine drudgery which should be welcomed, but at the same time, technology may also provide opportunities for control and coercion through the use of wearable technology and surveillance, which must be resisted. 


Florian Ranft

Member of the Management Board and Head of Green New Deal
Florian Ranft is a member of the Management Board and is head of Green New Deal & Progressive Governance at Das Progressive Zentrum.

Barry Colfer

Progressive Britain
Barry Colfer is a writer at Progressive Britain and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University's Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. Barry holds a PhD in politics and international relations from the University of Cambridge.

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