Future of Work - Major trends

Few countries combine an environmentally sustainable footprint with decent work

Since the 1970s, humanity uses more resources and generates more waste than can be regenerated and absorbed. The result, among others, is the collapse of fisheries, soil degradation, atmospheric and water pollution, the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

The key issue for the future of work is that nearly all countries which are sustainable from the point of view of the environment, have very high rates of working poverty. Previous development models suggest that moving these people out of poverty necessitates an increase in the ecological footprint. But this will result in environmental degradation that is also likely to destroy jobs and incomes, with the impact most felt among particular groups (e.g. migrants forced from their home by climate disasters, indigenous and tribal peoples, people with disabilities, the poor). In some cases, environmental degradation may also aggravate gender inequality.

Sources: ILO Trends 2016 and Global Footprint Network 2016 National Footprint Accounts

The future of work and society must therefore entail an environmentally sustainable development path. The promotion of economic growth and decent work can be achieved in parallel – not at the expense of –the environment and the natural resource base that supports economic activity and livelihoods. The Sustainable Development Goals articulate this challenge, highlighting how in the medium- and long-term decent work is only possible in the context of environmental sustainability.

For more information, see the ILO’s topical page on environmental sustainability and green jobs.

The forthcoming ILO World Employment and Social Outlook 2018, will provide estimates of what the transition to a green economy means for decent work and identify policies that can promote a just transition for all.