Social dialogue and the Future of Work

Enhancing social partners’ and social dialogue’s roles in a changing world of work

A new report by the ILO in cooperation with the European Commission looks at how the social partners in European countries are adapting to sweeping changes in the world of work.

Press release | 05 March 2020
BRUSSELS (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) will present an overview of the report “Enhancing social partners’ and social dialogue’s roles and capacity in the new world of work” at a conference to be held in Brussels on 5-6 March.

The study examines how the social partners in 34 European countries are adapting to the changes in the world of work, driven by technological innovation, demographic shifts, climate change and globalization.

One of the key priorities identified by the social partners is to strengthen representativeness and increase their membership.

Both employers’ and workers’ organizations have tried to improve the quality of their services and to extend them to new areas, such as individual legal advice, including through digital services.

On the trade unions’ side, efforts have been made to organize workers in new types of activities, such as platform jobs, and information campaigns have targeted schools, students and young academics, while others have opened up membership to the self-employed and students.

Employers’ organizations have tried to recruit new members from small and medium-sized enterprises, including start-ups and employers in rapidly growing sectors, such as IT and new technologies.

The report shows that the social partners play an increasing role in addressing the potential employment effects brought about by digitalization, although their roles and social dialogue on digitalization differ across the countries studied.

“We have seen social partners propose initiatives and policies to foster digital skills, reskilling and lifelong learning in countries such as Germany, Latvia, Sweden and Denmark,” explains Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, ILO Senior Economist, who co-edited the volume.

In several European countries, the social partners are also reaching agreements addressing labour protection issues stemming from the emergence of new forms of work, which have made it possible to extend social protection coverage to workers on digital platforms, as well as those in temporary employment and dependent self-employed.

The social partners also stressed the value of autonomous social dialogue, and agreed that the government has an important role to play to provide the necessary framework and to stimulate autonomous social dialogue.

“In the long run, the credibility of social dialogue actors will depend on how they adjust to changes in the world of work,” concludes Heinz Koller, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “We hope that this research will give them ideas to address these issues.”

The report will be presented at a two-day conference, bringing together officials from the European Commission, the ILO, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights as well as Labour ministers from several European countries.

Journalists who are interested in the report or who would like to talk to Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead can contact Fleur Rondelez: