"My husband said, ‘Hey Shirley, why don’t you consider becoming a driver…you can work your own hours’." Thanks to smartphones and apps, Shirley revamped her work to suit her life. There are risks, but satisfaction, too. Watch our video. 

Have you ever used your smartphone to hail a taxi? Order in lunch? Or to find the help you need, whether from a cleaner or a childminder? If you have, then like millions of people, you probably did so via digital platforms. Every day people are connecting online, whether to use or provide myriad services.

Finland may be top of the class for education, but it shines less brightly when it comes to productivity, even if output per hour worked is 15% above the OECD average. In fact, productivity growth has slipped back since the financial crisis a decade ago.

Changes brought by new technologies and globalisation are rapidly reshaping how we work and live. There has been a lot of talk about the future of work, but now we must turn words into action.

©Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/AFP

Smart communications technology has enabled people to hire themselves out as independently contracting workers in everything from taxi drives to video producers and gardeners. But what is the status of these workers, and what are the challenges of the so-called gig economy?

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“Workin' 9 to 5; What a way to make a living”, Dolly Parton sang in her classic hit. The year was 1980, and Parton’s character in the eponymous film, 9 to 5, already pioneered numerous policies of the new world of work to come, such as flexible work hours and a job-sharing programme. Some of these changes have since become widespread in certain countries and industries. And they affect social protection policies, too, as the OECD report The Future of Social Protection: What Works for Non-standard Workers? shows.

©Ira CHAPLAIN/SINOPIX-REA

When an 8-storey building in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh crumbled in 2013, over a thousand garment workers died. For those of us who buy fast fashion, it confirmed something we suspected: that many of the people who make the clothes we wear are, at the least, badly exploited, if not treated as slave labour. They work in fire traps. They receive death threats when they try to organise a trade union. They work long hours without a break so that factories can make their deadline. 

About a decade ago, three academics silently sat in on and recorded 36 hours of closed-room discussion among a group of Swedish governmental venture capitalists made up of two women and five men. The venture capitalists (VC) were going over pitches made by 125 people to obtain financing for their businesses of which 99 were men and 26 women.

Employment in OECD countries has finally caught up and passed 2008 pre-crisis figures with 67.6% of the working-age population now with jobs, according to the latest OECD employment numbers. 

Nowhere in the world do women have as many opportunities as men, whether those opportunities are economic, social or political. If we’re going to make our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) count, we have to start here.

Santiago de Chile alobos Life, on Flickr

For Chile, it is a great honour and opportunity to chair the 2016 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting. It is an opportunity to cele­brate Chile’s first five years as a member of the OECD and is yet another demonstration of the increasing relevance of emerg­ing and developing economies, which today account for more than half of world GDP. It is also a way to influence the OECD agenda from the perspective of a group of prosperous, but still unequal, countries.

Over the last few years there has been increased interest among start-ups in using Internet-based platforms to crowd­source a wide variety of resources, including funding, labour, design and ideas. Does this approach work?

©serprix.com

Time was when the only people who had gigs were long-haired types who stayed in bed till noon and played in bars till dawn. These days, it seems, everyone’s hopping from one gig to another–drivers, software designers, cleaners. Bye-bye full-time work, hello freedom and flexibility. Well, maybe…

©Charlotte Moreau

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When it comes to jobs and earnings, quality counts, too.

The economic and financial crisis has posed a stern test of many countries, though in Ireland, which enjoyed a boom for over a decade, the challenge was particularly stark. The scars are still there, but so are opportunities. Well-targeted, sensitive social policies can yield positive results. 

Becoming an entrepreneur has become increasingly popular since the economic meltdown of 2008, not least in Europe.

For all the signs of improving labour market conditions in many OECD countries, there is still a substantial way to go to close the jobs gap caused by the Great Recession of 2008-09. Unemployment will continue to fall in most countries, but by the end of 2017, it will still be well above pre-crisis levels in a number of them. 

©Rights reserved/www.JoanBurton.ie

Ireland’s job market has improved markedly, thanks in no small part to strong policies for new skills to meet evolving demands and engagement with people out of work. 

©TUAC

A structural shift to a low-carbon economy will entail gains in jobs, but also losses, and the first jobs to be lost are not those that you think. A just energy transition will be needed, but how? 

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer

How will workers’ current skills match new requirements for labour in a green economy? So far, few countries have put in place real plans to address this question, yet there is risk of a significant mismatch between skills and jobs. Would you know who to call if your geothermal system crashes? Should construction workers learn new skills for retrofitting buildings?

"Investing in the future while tackling youth unemployment."

©Randstad

"A real problem for the world economy is the location mismatch between available jobs and employees. Skills mismatch in an employment landscape is mainly an outcome of structural rigidities in labour markets, but it is also influenced by cyclical gaps between demand and supply. Job creation is fundamental, but all aspects of the skills mismatch must be addressed."

"There are many opportunities for lifelong learning available at the click of a button, so why is it that many employers still report a 'skills gap'?"

The 30% Club is a group of company chairmen, chairwomen and CEOs committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of their organisations through voluntary actions.

The world is still repairing the damage done to employment prospects and social equality by the crisis. Governments are trying to create not just more jobs, but better jobs. A new OECD framework helps them to define what job quality means and to measure whether their policies are succeeding. 

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Social entrepreneurs and governments speak different languages. However, understanding each other is essential to achieve quality of life through the businesses we start, grow and scale. While sharing a goal for a healthier society, it remains a challenge for new entrepreneurs and governments to work together: first, to integrate the different ambitions, values and cultures of (social) entrepreneurs, civil servants and politicians; second, to be aligned in the acceptance, timing and implementation of societal solutions through enterprising citizens. What is the role of business in creating spaces for social entrepreneurship and a more collaborative economy?

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Unequal pay between men and women continues to pose problems, despite decades of legislation by governments to address it, like the Equal Pay Act in the United States and the French labour code on wage equality introduced about half a century ago. In fact, not only are women still paid considerably less than men throughout the world, but UN predictions suggest the gap will persist for 70 years to come.  

The Spinoza Factory, together with Campagne Première Productions, have organised the Happiness at work days (journées du Bonheur au travail), in Paris from February 12-14. This three-day conference will include round tables, debates, and interventions by business leaders, psychologists, researchers, trade unions and employees.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 9 September 2019

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