Young people’s questions on the future of work: are you fast enough?

Youth Forum - The Future of work and Youth (cover page) The world of work is changing and with it, the skills and the abilities required by it. Are workers able to keep up with it? Now as never before, success will depend on the capacity of individuals to adapt and respond to the labour market’s needs. Whether it is a first job, or someone is forced to find another work, workers should feel protected by society and helped to transform knowledge into investible skills. Both young and older people are often faced with uncertainty and precarity regarding their working future. The European Youth Forum produced a report to highlight areas in which time and energies should be invested in order to change and shape the current situation – with many recommendations that would help older workers as well!

The future of work involves everyone

The European Youth Forum is a platform representing over 100 youth organisations in Europe. They aim at creating greater youth participation, improving the quality and the rights of younger citizens while encouraging them to get more involved to defend their ideas. With the report on “the future of work and youth”, Youth Forum highlights how the world of work is changing. Four megatrends are at the base of this process, namely globalisation, climate change, demographic change and technological advancements, each bringing new challenges and opportunities for the future workers. Thus, the report identified five key themes where actions can be taken to better adapt and influence the evolution of society in the employment field.

  1. Investing in people’s skills throughout the lifecycle. From digital skills to soft-skills, training should be available for citizens to reduce the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills, better investible in the working environment. Life-long learning should be at the base of the structure of skills development, highlighting the need of adaptability required by workers during their working careers.
  2. Reforming welfare systems and labour legislation. New forms of work are emerging and only a system that is able to adapt can ensure the new workers will be able to balance their personal life with their working duties, and continue to be protected from sickness, unemployment, and benefit from pension rights.
  3. Safe guarding workers’ rights and wellbeing. Are we really protected in this new technological society? From unaffordable care to the invasion of personal space and privacy, stricter regulations are needed to protect more vulnerable groups because of digitalisation and the high costs which hinder the access to care services.
  4. Creating an age-friendly labour market. The step between education and employment can be a hard one, and young people need support to be guided in the right direction..
  5. Investing in a new economy. New funding and supportive policies are needed to create alternative businesses, where young people can fit better and play a bigger role in its structuring and older workers’ needs are supported.

Common challenges for older and younger workers

Many of the points raised by the Youth Forums are important for sustainable careers throughout the life cycle:

  • While there are fewer older workers concerned by new forms of employment, some of them are and will have even less time in their remaining working life to make up for unpaid pensions contributions to guarantee a retirement free from poverty.
  • Many older workers’ skills are considered to be outdated because innovation and technology is associated with the young. Employers do not invest into the training of older workers as much as for younger ones – translating a stereotype into reality! Learning should be an ongoing process that involves all stages of life and that help citizens to find their role in society. In addition, older workers have learned skills from experience, which are not recognised by a labour market concerned with diplomas and new skills; the policies for validating and certifying skills should be stepped up – a measure that also benefits younger workers who might have acquired skills through volunteering or extracurricular activities.
  • Re-entering the working environment for older citizens might be harder than it should be, as they feel left behind by the evolution of works, struggling to find their place in the new, unfamiliar market of jobs – much like young people looking for their first work experience, or mid-aged workers coming out of a career break because of family responsibilities! Public employment services should adapt and focus on these barriers to (re-)enter the labour market.

As working is considered a highly valuable activity in the life of an individual that can help people to feel accomplish and satisfied with what they do, it should be protected, and citizens of all ages should have the opportunity to have a decent job and not just any job. At the same time, we need to stop wondering how the future will look like and start playing a role in shaping it. Actions at the international level needs to be taken to ensure the opportunities created by the megatrends will be exploited for inventing a new world of jobs, where no one is left behind.

AGE therefore fully supports the statement of the European Youth Forum on the Future of Work!

Further information:

AGE thanks Policy Intern Miriam Saso for the authoring of this article. For further information, please contact Philippe Seidel at the AGE Secretariat:

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