Journal Article
No. 2018-42 | June 28, 2018
The future of work: how G20 countries can leverage digital-industrial innovations into stronger high-quality jobs growth
(Published as Global Solutions Paper)


The wave of digital-industrial innovation which begins to disrupt vast sectors of the global economy has fueled fear of a potential adverse impact on jobs and wages. This paper argues that digital-industrial innovations make human capital more important than ever and the focus needs to shift to the complementarity between new technologies and human abilities. In particular, more effort should be devoted to (i) understanding what new skills will be needed, and how existing jobs will change; (ii) upgrading education and professional training schemes; (iii) reforming labor market institutions to support a future where a larger share of workers will change jobs and employers more frequently; (iv) reforming social benefits systems and bolstering social safety nets to smooth the economic transition and cushion the impact on the worst-affected workers. This paper presents an analysis of the challenges, addresses the key areas of action, and puts forward specific proposals, including policy actions, industry initiatives, and further research projects. The authors argue that the G20 could and should champion a comprehensive approach to leverage digital-industrial innovations for faster job creation and growth, with initiatives to re-align demand and supply of skills, labor market reforms, redesigned social safety nets, measures to promote digital innovation and facilitate the adoption of skills-augmenting technologies, and strengthened private sector training programs.

JEL Classification:

J20, J23, J24, J62, J68, O32, O33, M5, I28, E24, D24


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Cite As

Marco Annunziata and Hendrik Bourgeois (2018). The future of work: how G20 countries can leverage digital-industrial innovations into stronger high-quality jobs growth. Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, 12 (2018-42): 1–23.

Comments and Questions

Peter Smith - Comment
July 10, 2018 - 08:06

This is an interesting and useful contribution to n important topic; nobody could cover it in one contribution, so none of what follows is meant as negative criticism.

P3, para 3, and elsewhere: they refer to evidence of strong employment growth and high levels of employment, but do not ...[more]

... comment directly on how far these levels need to be qualified by the quality of the jobs.
The general summary on skills mismatch is – of course – absolutely sound. However, there are other things (necessarily outside the scope of this paper) that need to be considered than expert advice from think-tanks (p5) etc: (i) Why do we have rust-belts, dereliction of old industrial heartlands, etc - what are the psychological, social, and political factors involved? (ii) Similar comments on learning (p16 and elsewhere) – some tranches of society do seem to acquire a sort of learnt helplessness, in which is embedded the message that attempts to get a better working life through study (sensu lato) are futile. How do we get at this – especially in a resource-constrained context of 'austerity'? (Any keen young PhD candidate wanting a topic in either of these two areas should perhaps think about applying one of the emic family of techniques, to get at the insiders' perspectives on these questions.)

P5 bottom para/p5, re Graetz & Michaels: 'adverse effects on low-skilled workers' deserved further comment, given the authors' generally rather bullish assessment of the situation: how big, how common do the present authors think these effects are?

P8, on developing a strategy: I would be very surprised if this approach works. If you think in terms of Ian Mitroff's ( The Subjective Side of Science, Ch 7 especially) idea of problem structure, here we are in a wickedly-structured situation: sufficient uncertainty for there to be no unique, identifiable 'best' choice, complicated by the presence of different theories and paradigms (defining what is 'best') among the parties. (Look at the authors' comment on p18, top para, on the US benefits system for an example of such a difference.) Yes, of course, always better to 'light a candle, than sit and curse at the dark' – as A&B have done - but we are likely to see a mixed process of expertise and outright conflict, and it is that latter that perturbs me.

Eds, my thanks for passing this on, much appreciated.

Peter Smith,