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The future of work is now. If we fail to address the challenges of today we fail to generate the jobs of tomorrow.

The dignity of work is uncontested and both personal despair and social tension emerge when people are without employment and


    Sharan Burrow is general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Unemployment is still at historically high levels, the informal economy is growing, the participation of women has stalled and the

marginalization of young people is both an economic and social crisis.

The world needs a new business model.

The world's GDP has trebled since 1980, yet inequality is at historic levels. The hidden workforce of the richest companies in the world

work long hours for poverty wages, too often in unsafe environments or with unsafe products.

While global Internet penetration has increased by one billion people in the past four years, half the world’s population does not have

Internet access and indeed one quarter still have no electricity. This can only exacerbate economic inequality between countries.

Climate change is already threatening lives and livelihoods with extreme weather events and still 75 percent of the world's people have

no or inadequate social protection.

We can do better.

The global need for infrastructure, assessed to be $90 trillion by 2050, can be both a catalyst for job creation and an opportunity to

ensure the vital green infrastructure required for a zero carbon future.

Recognizing and formalizing jobs in the renewal and expansion of natural carbon sinks with reforestation and land care is both a win for

emissions reductions and a win for jobs. Likewise, expanding jobs in rescue, re-building, and resilience in response to natural

disasters is necessary.

Justice and equality for women doesn't start or end with the G20 target for a 25-percent increase in women's participation, but this

means jobs. To enable this participation requires investing in the care economy—child care, aged care, health, and education—to help

women join the workforce in greater numbers, and this investment will provide even more jobs.

But the future of work must be decent work.

With only 60 percent of the world's workforce holding a formal economy job and more than 50 percent facing increasingly insecure

work, there is a problem. Likewise with 40 percent of the workforce struggling to survive in the informal economy and up to 30 million

trapped in modern-day slavery the quest for full employment and decent work is the central challenge.

Globalization has changed our world but has not delivered rights for workers or safe and secure work for enough people. With global

supply chains now accounting for more than 60 percent of global trade in the real economy it is an exploitative model that is fueling

inequality, failing to pay minimum living wages, denying fundamental rights, and holding back development.

The International Trade Union Confederation’s Frontlines Poll’ recently surveyed thousands of people in the United States, United

Kingdom, France, and Germany. When asked if global companies could be trusted, more than 50 percent of people from developed

countries said no. A quarter said they didn’t know, leaving just two in 10 who admitted trust in the status quo.

And almost 80 percent of people in major producer countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Turkey want business to pay a decent

minimum wage to all workers in their supply chains.

Another eight in 10 thought companies did not take workplace safety seriously, putting profits ahead of people.

Corporate social responsibility is an $80 billion industry and it has failed. The model is corrupted and the people of the world know just


We need the rule of law.

The rule of law requires legislation. It requires judicial systems that are based on rights established by the International Labor

Organization and transparency—a judicial system that promotes responsibility and, when that fails, ensures remedy.

We need labor market institutions that promote and police wage distribution mechanisms—minimum living wages and collective

bargaining—based on the fundamental guarantee of freedom of association.

And we need governments that prioritize the basic income and services that ensure sustainable and peaceful communities.

The 2015 ITUC Global Rights Index found, in almost 60 percent of countries, certain types of workers are excluded from their

fundamental labor rights. Seventy percent of countries leave workers with no right to strike. Two-thirds of countries deny workers

collective bargaining rights, and in more than half of countries in the survey governments deny workers access to the rule of law.

Labor is not a commodity, a principle at the very heart of the Constitution of the International Labor Organization, yet the world's

workforce of around 2.9 billion people is increasingly seen by major corporations as just that.

Both the G7 and the G20 have these issues on their agenda.

Full employment and decent work with gender equality and social protection for all must be critical elements of the United Nations

Sustainable Development Goals to be settled this year.

Nation and industry plans for a just transition to a zero carbon economy are critical to ensure sustainable business necessary to both

fight climate change and to invest in green jobs.

Investment in jobs and realizing full employment and decent work as part of the U.N. sustainable development goals—this is the only

future for work.

By and large, the American economy has grown less friendly to workers in recent years. Myriad trends—among them offshoring,

ever-more sophisticated robots and automation, growing pressures to maximize profits and the decline of labor unions—have set back

workers in various ways. To many economists and workplace experts, one of the biggest mysteries—and one of the most

disconcerting questions—is why wages for the average worker have stagnated year after year even as stock prices, corporate profits,

and productivity have climbed to new records. Indeed, I wrote a book, The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, back

in 2006 and 2007 to explore this disconnect—that American corporations were thriving, while wages for the typical American worker

were languishing, with health and pension benefits generally growing worse.

    Steven Greenhouse is a former New York Times reporter who covered labor and workplace issues for 19 years. He is working on a

book about the future of American workers and unions.

Let’s explore two major workplace issues, starting with wage stagnation. This is a huge problem, and unfortunately many Americans

don’t realize how serious it is. Wages for the typical worker are up just 1.6 percent over the past six years, and, believe it or not, after-

inflation wages remain below where they were in 1973. Try to raise a family on that. Median household income—$52,250—remains 8.6

percent or nearly $5,000 below its peak back in 2000. Forty-two percent of American workers earn less than $15 an hour—that translates

to just $31,200 a year for a full-time worker.

On the right, many argue that wherever the market sets wages, that’s the proper place, and that neither government nor labor unions

should mess with wage levels. And many people tell $8-an-hour McDonald’s workers that if they want to earn more, they shouldn’t be

protesting with the Fight for $15, they should go to college to upgrade their skills. I’ve interviewed scores of fast-food workers, and

many say they would love to go to college, but they can’t begin to afford it, partly because many of them have families to support. And

don’t forget, even if every American worker had a bachelor’s degree, the economy would still require millions of fast-food workers

(average pay $8.90 an hour), big box cashiers, home-care aides, janitors, nursing home workers, security guards, warehouse workers,

gardeners. Indeed, many of these are among the fastest-growing job categories in the nation. The fact is, many jobs do not require

college skills. When I interview fast-food or Walmart workers, they often say that something is hugely wrong when they earn just $8, $9,

$10 an hour and they and their families have to turn to food stamps, Medicaid, and heating assistance from the government.

One doesn’t have to be an Einstein to realize that wage stagnation has contributed to America’s income inequality—the worst it’s been

since the Gilded Age of the 1920s. According to Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California–Berkeley, the top one

percent of American households captured 95 percent of the income gains between 2009 and 2012. The United States as a nation faces

a question of what to do about wage stagnation. Some support new laws that would raise the minimum wage or make it easier to

unionize workers; some call for spending more on education for the poorest Americans to make it easier for them to go to college and

move up in the world. Others say, “Let’s just leave it to the market.” What’s clear is something is badly broken and needs fixing.

A second major issue: the effects of automation. For more than a century, economists have maintained that new technologies create as

many jobs as they destroy. Think of the auto plants that succeeded the buggy makers. But now robots and artificial intelligence have

become so hugely sophisticated—doing more and more work that humans do, doing knowledge jobs and service jobs and no longer

just factory jobs—that many economists say automation might begin wiping out far more jobs than it creates. That is one explanation

economists give for why some five million workers have dropped out of the U.S. labor force since 2008. Not only does automated

checkout replace many cashiers at CVS, but bellhop robots deliver items to hotel guests’ rooms, software algorithms write sports

articles for newspapers, and self-driving vehicles might someday replace truck and taxi drivers, perhaps even Uber drivers.

In a recent article, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times wrote that over the “15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself

into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise.” She noted that more than 16 percent of men between the

ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from five percent in the late 1960s, while 30 percent of women in that age group are not working,

up from 25 percent in the late 1990s.

Automation of course means greater productivity per worker, indeed greater economic output overall. And that’s certainly a good thing.

But what happens if today’s vastly more sophisticated robots and automation lead to fewer jobs overall and millions of workers forced

out of the labor market? This raises some weighty questions: How do we as a nation, as a world, share the benefits of automation? Will

those benefits go overwhelmingly to the shareholders of the companies that own that automation—the companies that own the bellhop

robots and the self-driving cars? (To be sure, automation helps lower production costs, leading to lower prices for consumers.)

If automation means we do not need as many workers, what happens to those displaced? Do we let them languish, do we let them fall

into poverty? Or will we as a society figure out a way to spread the work—perhaps by adopting a four-day (or even three-day)

workweek, spreading the work to reduce unemployment and giving full-time workers an extra day or two off? Or will we, should we,

adopt a broader, more generous social safety net to help those displaced by ever more sophisticated automation?

Predicting workforce trends in the United States is a hazardous business. Today, 40 percent of the GDP relies on business that did not

exist 10 years ago. So, were I asked 11 years ago to predict the most important changes affecting work and workers, I would have

missed many crucial ones. For example, I would not have predicted that fracking would revive traditional manufacturing (and

simultaneously retard progress in clean-tech jobs); that the sharing economy would produce a new breed of part-time workers; or that

there would be a generational shift in communications (with older professionals still stuck on email and phones while younger

professionals migrate rapidly to SMS and social media).

    Jeff Bleich is a former United States ambassador to Australia, special counsel to President Obama, chair of the California State

University Board of Trustees, and president of the State Bar of California. He serves on the U.S. Fulbright Scholarship Board as well as

several other public and private boards. He is currently a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, specializing in international disputes and

counseling U.S. companies on technology matters.

So, knowing what I don’t know, I will limit my predictions to the implications of technologies that already exist, and that are likely to

fundamentally disrupt employment sectors and work-life. Based on these, I think U.S. workers of the future will not drive (and will exploit

time and efficiencies from not driving), will perform fewer dull or dangerous activities, will develop more home industries, will find more

jobs meeting emotional needs, and will have much longer work lives with new (and distinct) phases of their career.

DRIVERLESS WORKFORCES: Businesses that depend on transportation will thrive, but drivers will not. Autonomous vehicles will

displace drivers for many reasons. They will dramatically reduce the risk of accidents—sparing society needless death, injury, and

property damage. They will reduce insurance costs and other drags on productivity. They will reduce congestion, and attendant down

time and fuel costs. And they will allow people to be productive at a time when they currently are not—namely when they are behind a

wheel trying to get places. Eventually, workers will probably move away from owning cars altogether. They will subscribe to driverless

services that geo-locate them on demand, take them where they need to go, and run errands for them while they are at work. The net

effect will be that businesses that depend on transportation will experience a renaissance. However, vast sectors will see their jobs

disappear—bus drivers, truck drivers, cab drivers, forklift operators, heavy equipment operators, etc. will go the way of blacksmiths

and keypunch operators. Because of this mass displacement, and the challenges of developing hack-proof autonomous systems, the

timeline is hard to predict. But it is hard to imagine that a generation from now, our work force will not be driverless.

HOME INDUSTRY: In the past few years, a new sector of workers has developed in the U.S. A person who would previously have

sought a full-time job might today earn her living by renting out space in her home through Airbnb; or transporting Lyft or Uber

passengers in her car; or doing odd jobs for neighbors like hanging pictures, picking up groceries, or cleaning windows through

Taskrabbit. Thanks to technology, these self-employed contractors can work according to their own schedule and requirements by

deploying what they already possess (their home or car, for example) for profit. 3-D printers will allow people to manufacture in their

homes. EBay-style sites will allow efficient home trading posts. Algorithms used for electronic currency will let artists, publishers, and

collectors run virtual galleries where they authenticate and prevent reproduction of items. The net effect will be a movement away from

consolidated working spaces toward a world where workers can adapt their work to fit their schedules and circumstances.

Simultaneously, there will be a transformation in how these small businesses are regulated. Instead of depending on regulators to set

standards of care and perform inspections, consumers will provide better and more accurate protection by posting reviews and

evaluations for others.

A LITTLE MORE CONVERSATION, A LITTLE LESS ACTION: I expect a dramatic move away from work that is dull or dangerous. Today,

we can’t imagine letting workers build bridges and skyscrapers without harnesses, nets, and other safety equipment. That trend away

from placing workers in harm’s way will accelerate. Jobs that range from national defense to construction to product testing will be

performed by machines rather than people. At the same time, traditional factory/assembly line jobs will give way to mechanical

solutions. The effect of those jobs disappearing will be to drive more workers into services that can’t be replaced—such as ones that

provide emotional gratification and other “softer” skills like personal care, dispute resolution, and counseling.

PRE-RETIREMENT JOBS: Workers will live much longer and thus will have to work longer. Life expectancies in the U.S. are increasing

by three months every year. With the development of immunotherapies and other treatments, that seems likely to accelerate at an

unprecedented rate. Retirement and associated benefits will need to be deferred and workers will likely have multiple career chapters

to address boredom and obsolescence. Unlike a computer- illiterate 60-something today, who may remain in a management position

until induced to retire, the next generation of older workers will either need to keep up with technology or move to a whole new career.