The opportunity for decent work and fair reward is an essential pillar of an inclusive economy, and expanding that opportunity is key to reducing inequality. Work is also central to a person’s sense of purpose, dignity, and ability to provide for loved ones.
Over the past several decades, the workplace has been transformed by globalization, technological advancement, changing power dynamics, and the growing economic role of financial markets. Developments in artificial intelligence and robotics are poised to further shift the ways we work. While these changes mean new opportunities for some, many workers are contending with declining incomes, fewer benefits, unpredictable work, distressed local economies, and the loss of upward mobility.
Many types of workers are affected by these seismic changes, from the creative professional working “gig to gig” to the retail or restaurant worker, the home care worker negotiating price and availability with customers through an app, and the long-haul trucker worried about a future of driverless vehicles. Workers who have more traditional relationships with their employers, clients, and tools also feel insecure about their economic futures. And women, people of color, and migrants disproportionately bear the brunt.
These changes and fears also have broader implications: As technological innovation upends more sectors of the economy—displacing jobs and changing the nature of work tasks—deep economic anxiety fuels mistrust of democratic institutions and magnifies age-old prejudices and discrimination. Millions of workers can’t afford to simply cope with a changing marketplace and growing economic risk.