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Global Labour Trends for 2018

Posted: 1st October 2018 09:18


The labour market is constantly changing and adjusting to the global setting which has faced: (i) a rapid technological advancement with a widespread acceptance of digital communication devices; (ii) a competitive environment of companies; (iii) the globalisation phenomenon; and (vi) the financial crisis, etc. Within this environment, employers focus on avoiding high labour costs, using modern forms of work and recovering from the financial crisis of the past 10 years.
In the old work-force organisation, it was required that the company owned the physical resources, paid for human working hours and combined these to create products and services. Tasks required the physical presence of the employee in order to comply with the employer’s needs, and the demand was usually known ahead of time.
Times are changing, and the typical employment contracts are being replaced by more flexible forms of work; an adaptability of schedule, a different organisation of worktime and higher levels of responsiveness to fluctuations in the demand for production or services.
The new forms of work, however, lead to a mismatch between these emerging ways of working and the existing employment and labour regulations. Therefore, the global labour trends for 2018 and for the coming years are, in our view, focus on these new types of work organisations.

2.Global Trends for 2018

2.1.The Casual Work

“Zero-hour work contracts” have increasingly been used by certain sectors and countries. These contracts do not expressly specify the set of working hours that the employer is supposed to require from the employee, but require the employee to be available in case the company needs them. These contracts are usually designed as casual work and "on-call work" and are built to meet the specific demands of workload and work organisation of employers and do not offer employees any possibility of planning ahead neither working hours nor salary. On the other hand, this very atypical work can present itself as an easy access to the labour market and a short working schedule, mainly for students and recent graduates.
Zero-hour work contracts are sometimes regulated by law, although in many countries, it is not a legal form of working. In other countries, the work of permanence is widely practiced, even though there is no specific legislation on the subject. In the United Kingdom, although there is widespread use of on-call duty, employers have no legal obligation to provide pre-defined hours to employees in these types of contracts.
However, while employers can do the work whenever there is an unexpected increase in business activity, a limited integration of employees into the company's philosophy and values requires unmotivated employees and consequent job dissatisfaction that can result in lower quality work. The International Labor Organization has drawn attention to zero-hour contracts and the need to ensure minimum rights of protection for employees working under such a regime, which is a substantial contributor to undeclared work, job instability and precarious employment.

2.2.Artificial intelligence

The current big technology trend is, definitely, artificial intelligence (AI). From SIRI to self-driving cars, AI is progressing rapidly. The introduction of these robots with AI into the workplace completely changes the method of organising work, deeply impacting the business world. AI is expected to save relevant costs for companies and also significantly increase efficiencies.
Nevertheless, AI matches or exceeds human performance in a growing number of domains, and several tasks traditionally performed by humans have already been taken over by robots and algorithms. Moreover, the general consensus is that the capabilities of AI will continue to grow and its use will become rapidly more widespread. The exponential growth of the capabilities and applicability of AI has raised concerns related to job automation and the possibility of massive technological unemployment. With AI, even the safety of many of the managerial jobs that commanded a high wage premium are now at stake.

2.3.Human Cloud

Creator of trends for the next few years, cloud computing has profoundly altered the way the work is done. The "human cloud" is the dematerialisation of business that allows individuals or companies to share certain computer processing resources for a specific project. The individuals sharing the resources use this space as an equivalent to the physical space used in a traditional work organisation, allowing ad hoc teams and experts to contribute to an end product or service, even if they do not work for a sole employer. Although this form of atypical work is not typically subordinated to an employment contract – promoting self-employment – it is likely to compete with other forms of increasing employment.
The benefits are straightforward on the company’s side: it provides instant access to a large group of talented and enthusiastic people with typically low "wages" and without establishing employment relationships that determine the need to comply with certain periodic and mandatory obligations. Individuals, on the other hand, achieve the ultimate goal that the millennialgeneration seeks: flexibility at work. However, flexibility has the counterpart of lower wages – especially for people who use the human clouds to make a living – and the inequality between economies.

2.4. Digital platform work

Digital platform work is probably the most recent high-impact trend in the world of employment. The spread of digital connectivity among billions of people in the world population generates jobs as a way to surpass some of the constraints of traditional workplaces. Digital Work Platforms can also potentially change some of the dynamics of equality, allowing its employees to access to geographically distant markets, and through a veil of anonymity provided by the digital system.
Nevertheless, the structure of the digital platforms market has potentially very important implications for wage and working conditions, and tends to generate relatively low wages, employing fewer people than in an ordinary and standard labour market. Platforms such as these minimise the relationship between employer and employee who is generally independent and, as such, make the constraints and regulations of labour laws more flexible.

3. Conclusion

Technology has disturbed business and the work organisation. New forms of work represent new challenges for the law. While in some cases it is sufficient to adjust a regulation or an interpretation of an existing law, in some other cases, new legislation needs to be implemented. In any case, the certainty is that technology will continue to change at an exponential rate and that these changes will also lead to a deep transformations concerning how laws can adjust to the technological revolution. 

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