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What Happened? - Work

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Please see below selected pre-2016 intelligence about work. This is a synthesis of major recent developments at corporates, business schools, thinktanks, media, commentators, and other key influencers in our external environment.


December 2015






  • A new book, The Refusal of Work, argues that the time has to come to challenge the work-centred nature of society. The author, David Frayne, an academic who looks at consumerism and radical approaches to work, describes the powerful view that jobs are an expression of our creativity and selves. There is for some, a religious devotion to work. He writes: “Gratifying work is a fantasy that we have all been trained to invest in, ever since our teachers and parents asked us what we wanted to ‘be’ when we grew up.” Moreover, he argues that “those activities and relationships that cannot be defended in terms of economic contribution are being devalued and neglected”. How different this is from economist John Maynard Keynes’s prediction in 1930 that in 100 years we would devote most of our week to leisure. 


  • Real estate billionaire Jeff Greene warned that technology will kill white-collar jobs. He says new forms of technology will only exacerbate the growing gap between the rich and the poor, because, he claims, we have left ourselves unprepared for the inevitable automation of many jobs traditionally done by humans. He said: “What globalisation did to blue collar jobs and the working class economy over the past 30 or 40 years, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics will do to the white collar economy - and at a much, much faster pace.”




November 2015


  • The European Commission, together with the European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Europe), launched the European Pact for Youth, a mutual engagement of business leaders and the EU to improve the chances for young people of getting a job, at the Enterprise 2020 Summit. The Pact is an appeal to all business, social partners, education and training providers and other stakeholders to develop or consolidate partnerships in support of youth employability and inclusion.





  • The OECD unemployment rate was stable at 6.7% in September 2015, 1.4 percentage point below the January 2013 peak. Across the OECD area, 40.9m people were unemployed, 8.0m less than in January 2013, but still 6.4m more than in July 2008, immediately before the crisis. The euro area unemployment rate declined by 0.1% to 10.8%, its lowest level since January 2012. Within the euro area, the largest fall was in Spain (down to 21.6%, now having decreased every month for two years). The unemployment rate in September was stable in Japan (at 3.4%) and in the US at 5.1%), while it increased in Canada (to 7.1%). More recent data show that in October 2015, the unemployment rate fell by 0.1% in the US (to 5.0%) and in Canada (to 7.0%).



October 2015



  • In One Algorithm to Rule Them All, strategy+business argued that we’ll likely see is unemployment creeping up, downward pressure on the wages of more and more professions, and increasing rewards for the fewer and fewer that can’t yet be automated. Meanwhile, in Will automation replace our jobs?, the professor of management practice at London Business School, discussed the impact of automation trends in the workplace, and in particular how this will affect the work of internal communicators.





  • Looking much longer-term, in On the Edge of Automation, in five hundred years from now, claimed venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, fewer than 10 percent of people on the planet will be doing paid work.



  • KPMG’s recent piece, Bots in the Back Office: The Coming Wave of Digital Labour explored the ‘withering’ BPO industry. KPMG’s report said “The concept of labour arbitrage as the primary value lever of business process outsourcing (BPO) is dying. The geographic discussion is giving way to automation."



  • The EU28 unemployment rate was 9.5% in August 2015, stable compared to July 2015, and down from 10.1% in August 2014 -  details.




September 2015






August 2015





  • As Europe’s post-crisis workers live through huge labour market upheaval, with growing numbers surviving on short-term contracts, the Financial Times analysed what this means for young people, business and the economy. The FT believes that, in Europe, the increase in temporary work is sinister, as it reflects a rise in precariousness rather than autonomy.





July 2015





  • Unemployment across emerging markets has risen sharply this year, reversing a six-year slide, even as it has continued to fall in developed countries. The figures compound a worsening slowdown in emerging markets, driven by a fall in commodity prices and a pullback in global trade, which threatens to drag consumer spending down.





June 2015






May 2015






April 2015






January 2015






November 2014




  • Tower Watson's The 2014 Global Workforce Study: Driving Engagement Through a Consumer-Like Experience provided a detailed view into the attitudes and concerns of workers globally,  with responses from 32,000+ employees across a range of industries in 26 markets. Key findings: (a) just four in 10 employees are highly engaged, so there is room for improvement, (b) regardless of employee age, base pay is the reason most frequently cited by employees for joining or leaving a company and (c) 41% of employees cite job security as a key reason to join a company.



October 2014





  • In The Future of the Workforce - a world of contingencies, Shaping Tomorrow argued that the changes in both the nature and skills required of employees and the dynamics in the global labour market are creating both uncertainty and opportunity. Many labour trends have been stable for long periods of time, yet are now entering a period of greater change. Contingent workforces are on the rise. For example: businesses will face a shrinking workforce and fiercer competition for skilled workers; many service industries may shed much of their workforceto automation and more of the workforce may be located in service sectors and the average output per worker (and thus average productivity in the economy) will rise.








September 2014





August 2014