Socialist International 1st Roundtable on the Future of Work

28 April 2023

Socialist International held its 1st Roundtable on the Future of Work on Friday 28th April 2023 and brought together political leaders, trade union leaders, and policymakers across the world. The event was part of Socialist International’s activities to mark International Workers Day – 1st May 2023. 

The 1st Roundtable on the Future of Work was held under the theme - “Protecting the Interests of Workers in an Era of Technological Innovations: Setting a Progressive Agenda” The Roundtable highlighted the urgency to address the challenges faced by workers and the importance of collaboration between political parties, unions, and other stakeholders in order to create a better future for workers worldwide.

Speakers at the event included Ms. Benedicta Lasi, Secretary-General of Socialist International; Nicolas Schmit, European Union Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights; Laxman Basnet, General Secretary, South Asian Regional Trade Union Council (SARTUR); Mezhoud Arezki, Secretary General Organization of African Trade Union Unity; Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament and Lead Rapporteur on Artificial Intelligence Act; Kattia Rivera Soto, Vice President of Socialist International, a Deputy of the Legislative Assembly PLN in Costa Rica; Esther Lynch, Secretary General of the European Trade Unions Confederation; Antton Rönnholm, Vice President Socialist International and Secretary General SPD Finland; and Khaoula Lachguar, Vice President of the Socialist International, USFP Morocco. 

The event featured conversations on how progressive forces can work together at the global, continental, and national levels to develop concrete policies that protect the rights of workers and the economic rights of people across the world in the age of rapid technological advancement. 

The speakers at the event stressed the importance of creating synergies between political parties, policymakers, and trade unions to develop an inclusive and progressive agenda that addresses the threats to workers’ rights. They also acknowledged the responsibility of political parties to analyze new demands and societal changes, as well as the importance of maintaining the pillars of democracy to uphold the economic rights of citizens. They stressed on the need for a human-centric approach to work and the necessity to ensure all workers are treated fairly, without discrimination or exclusion. 

Contributors emphasized the rapid integration of technology in many professions, which has led to some jobs disappearing or undergoing radical transformations. They further highlighted the challenges workers face, such as digital harassment and the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional life.

The importance of social protection in the adaptation to new technologies was reaffirmed with particular emphasis on the need for unions to evaluate the impact of new technological processes in various sectors, identify new types of companies and working environments for workers, and promote social justice and workers' rights. Workers’ Unions were also encouraged to adopt an introspective approach to adjust their work and advocacy methodologies in order to be proactive in the protection of workers’ rights. 

Other speakers cited the growing skill gap, especially in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean regions where many young people cannot afford quality education or find well-paying jobs. They cited the case of migrant workers who often face unfair working conditions and unfulfilled contracts in their destination countries. 

Better regulation of tech giants, fair trade policies, ethical recruitment, and lifelong learning were some of the policy recommendations put forth by speakers and contributors to ensure equitable distribution of gains from technological advancements. They emphasized that although digitalization has so far been complementary to human work, it is gradually replacing entire professions and certain skills. 

In conclusion, speakers highlighted the urgent need to address the challenges and impacts of the future of work and the role of political parties, unions, and legislative frameworks in ensuring worker rights and social justice. They also highlighted the importance of organizations such as Socialist International and other progressive international organizations working together to address the protection of workers’ rights in this era of rapid digital transformation.