Measuring tomorrow’s work and economy
Insights from 50 expert interviews in the UK, France and Germany
The study offers insights into how policy-makers in Europe’s three largest economies can shape an emerging world of work and businesses that is heavily altered by new technologies. As the key challenges, the authors identify a crisis of cognition, the emergence of artificial intelligence and the underlying transformation of the skills demand (from what to think to ways to think).
10 policy recommendations at a glance
- Policy-makers should use skills maps and effective skills forecasting, particularly in combination with a culture of social dialogue, to help to mitigate the risks associated with job automation in different business sectors and industries by preparing the workforce for change.
- Institutional mechanisms similar to co-determination between unions and management should be developed to promote dialogue and trust. Such innovations can guarantee that an employee’s voice is taken into account when it comes to the deployment of new technologies such as AI.
- In-work training is vital for up-skilling employees. It should be underpinned by soft skills development such as problem-solving and creative thinking that will facilitate the transition to collaborative work environments.
- Tax credits for SMEs to train staff and productivity-enhancing technologies can incentivise up-skilling and the uptake of new technologies, allowing them to compete with larger companies.
- Lifelong learning accounts similar to the programmes in France, Luxembourg and Singapore should play an important role in supporting employees to update their skills to keep up with shifting labour demands.
- In case of job loss, retraining efforts could be supported by a capped top-up to an employee’s training salary, particularly to support lower-income employees, to undertake vocational training – for example, by increasing training salaries to 60% of previous income.
- Regional and local governments must play a leading role in incentivising companies to invest not only in major cities and helping them to attract tech talent. For example, this can include supporting specialised educational institutions, housing, and co-working spaces and other infrastructure.
- As the effect of new technologies on labour is rarely easy to predict, the introduction of “sandboxing” – where new technologies such as new AI innovations can be tested under a less complex and onerous regulatory environment for a limited period of time, can help policy-makers to observe and absorb the impact of new technologies.
- Safety at work often focuses on physical safety. As knowledge work gains importance, employers, unions and ultimately governments need to incorporate current research on mental health into the debate to prevent burnout and other work-related diseases.
- Technology should be embraced as a means to advance equal opportunities by expanding flexible job opportunities to greater numbers of traditionally marginalised groups, such as stay-at-home parents, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and so on.
About the authors
Dr. Florian Ranft is head of the programme “Structural Change” at Das Progressive Zentrum. His work focuses on inclusive growth, a sustainable economy and the future of work. In previous capacities, he was Head of Policy and International at Policy Network, and a former Senior Research Analyst at the Centre for Progressive Policy, both think tanks based in London. Previously, he was a researcher and lecturer in political sociology and international relations at the Universities of Frankfurt and Greifswald.
Dr. Barry Colfer is head of publications at Policy Network and is Visiting Fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. Barry holds a PhD and M.Phil in politics and international relations from the University of Cambridge, and has held academic and research positions at a range of top universities. His research interests include comparative European politics, industrial relations, party politics, and the implications for Ireland of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Adrienne Gormley believes that the digital transformation is a technological as well as a cultural process. Read the blog post (in German).
About the project
The report „Measuring tomorrow’s work and economy: an in-depth investigation into the UK, France and Germany“ by the Berlin-based think tank Das Progressive Zentrum and the London-based think tank Policy Network, with support of the smart workspace platform Dropbox, seeks to contribute to the debate on tomorrow’s work and economy, while identifying strategies that will maximise the opportunities to be gleaned from the digital economy for the whole of society.
Our findings in this report are based on semi-structured expert interviews with fifty well-known experts in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, as well as at the EU institutions in Brussels. All of the experts we spoke to work on different aspects of how new technologies shape the workplace and the economy, and have considered opinions about the risks and the opportunities that are created (or destroyed) by digitalisation.