Date posted: 12/02/2019 10 min read

OECD Jobs Strategy outlines three threats to jobs and opportunities

Technology has revolutionised work, but digitisation, globalisation and an ageing population will drastically change jobs.

In Brief

  • Half of all jobs in OECD countries are at risk from automation or will fundamentally change in the near future.
  • Give and take is a central theme of the latest OECD Jobs Strategy report, which emphasises that workers and business should share gains and costs.
  • Evidence shows that countries with policies that emphasise quantity and quality in employment perform better than those that concentrate on “preserving or enhancing market flexibility”.

By Jacqueline Blondell

Resilience and adaptability are at the heart of the OECD’s Jobs Strategy to help policymakers stare down risks to the future of work.

Half of all jobs in OECD countries are at risk from automation or will fundamentally change in the near future. In response, governments need to adopt a radical approach to counter low productivity, unemployment, wage sluggishness and an ever-widening income inequality gap, states the latest OECD Jobs Strategy report, Good Jobs for All in a Changing World of Work.

Inclusive jobs strategy is the best approach

The OECD is advocating a policy approach that creates resilient workers and businesses that can face down the triple threats of digitisation, globalisation and an ageing population. Technology may have revolutionised how we work and live, but it has created challenges for those industries and workers that are in danger of being left behind. Inequality between the richest and poorest in the OECD has “reached unprecedented heights”, notes the report. The disposable income of the richest 10% in the group is 9.5 times greater than the poorest 10%.

“Technological progress, globalisation and demographic change are creating many new opportunities, but not for everyone,” said OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría at the report’s launch in December.

Gurría recommends that “policymakers should focus on helping those at risk of being left behind through well-targeted education and training, labour market and social policies as part of an inclusive jobs strategy to help everyone get ahead”.

“Technological progress, globalisation and demographic change are creating many new opportunities, but not for everyone.”
Ángel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Business and workers to share the pain and gains

Give and take is the central theme of this report, which emphasises that workers and business should share gains and costs. This strategy offers a radically different approach from its 1994 and 2006 predecessors, with a shift from a purely remedial approach to a far-ranging preventative outlook. To this end a social contract is being proposed between governments, business and workers. This shift is based on new evidence showing that those countries with policies that emphasise quantity and quality in employment, and greater inclusiveness, perform better than those economies that concentrate on “preserving or enhancing market flexibility”.

OECD marks Australia down on Indigenous employment

The report notes the high quality of Australian jobs and that there is low incidence of “on the job poverty”. Laid-off workers find it relatively easy to find a new job quickly and earnings are above average.

The employment rate for disadvantaged workers is relatively high, but there is great room for improvement in Indigenous employment rates, with the OECD noting “there are very large gaps in socio-economic outcomes between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations”. Australian students’ performance has slid down the international rankings and is “worryingly negative” notes the report, citing “economic disadvantage affecting student outcomes”.

New Zealand can do better for young mothers

New Zealand scores highly for its inclusive and high-quality labour market. Its performance is underpinned by good policy and a quality education system. Unemployment is low but hasn’t completely regained the levels seen before the global financial crisis. The country scores above the OECD average for employment of women but, like Australia, falls down on its employment of women with young children.

The report also notes that while laid-off workers find it relatively easy to find a new job, the lack of public unemployment insurance means workers “bear the brunt of costs” while searching for new work.


Key points

  • A healthy labour market needs long-term thinking and sound macro-economic policies to prevent economic downturns from falling into long-term, low-growth traps.
  • Workers and business need to unite to fight low-growth productivity.
  • Education and training are key to lifetime employment.
  • Policies need to strike the right balance between employment flexibility and stability.

Read more:

Download the OECD Jobs Strategy Good Jobs for All in the Changing World of Work report

Read it here