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OECD: Rapid action needed to meet challenges of changing workplace

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According to the OECD’s latest Employment Outlook 2019, released April 2019 as part of the OECD’s Future of Work initiative, governments need to overhaul their approach to employment and jobs to reduce further social and economic tensions. Without rapid action, many people, particularly the low skilled, will be left behind.

Among the findings of the report:

  • A rising number of young people with less than tertiary educations in many countries are out of work or, if in work, under-employed or low-paid. Men have seen an increase in joblessness and under-employment in some countries, although labor market outcomes for women remain worse on average.
  • The digital transformation, globalization and demographic changes mean that 14% of existing jobs could disappear as a result of automation in the next 15-20 years, with another 32% set to change radically.
  • The past few years have seen a further rise in non-standard work such as self-employment and temporary contracts. Part-time employment has risen in virtually every OECD country over the past few decades, and the share of people who work part-time but would prefer to work full-time has also risen in two-thirds of OECD countries for which data are available.

The OECD recommends that countries focus on four key areas: labor protection, social protection, learning and social dialogue, and underlines the importance of ensuring adequate labor law protection for workers, regardless of their employment status. Governments should tackle false self-employment, which employers sometimes use to avoid taxes and regulations, minimize the “gray zone” between salaried work and self-employment, and extend rights to workers left in that zone.

According to the report:

  • Adapting and extending social protection is essential to ensure better coverage for workers in non-standard forms of employment. Non-standard workers are, in some countries, 40-50% less likely to receive any form of income support while out of work than standard employees.
  • Benefit entitlements should be made portable across jobs and targeted social protection measures complemented with more universal and unconditional support.
  • Training participation is lowest among those who need it most, including the low-skilled, older adults and non-standard workers. A major overhaul of adult learning programmes to increase their coverage and promote quality is needed to harness the benefits of the changing world of work. Measures should include removing time and financial constraints to participation in training, making training rights portable, and providing quality information and counseling.

Finally, union membership has steadily declined over the last three decades in OECD countries, falling from 30% in 1985 to 16% in 2016. This has weakened workers’ bargaining power and contributed to the decline in the share of national income going to workers. Membership is even lower among non-standard workers, who are 50% less likely than standard workers to be unionized. Access to collective bargaining and social dialogue should be extended beyond standard employment.

Download the entire report here.

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