Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
6 January 2021updated 08 Sep 2021 8:53am

Spotlight Leader: an equitable future

Government must put equality at the heart of policy as the world of work changes. 

By Spotlight

The future of work has “already arrived”, the World Economic Forum (WEF) declared in October last year. According to its Future of Jobs 2020 report, the pandemic had accelerated changes to the world of work. With the workforce automating faster than anticipated, the WEF estimated that 85 million jobs would be displaced in the next five years. 

Businesses and governments have long discussed the potential impact of AI and automation, but the Covid-19 “home-working revolution” proved that high-tech virtual jobs will be an enduring feature of this brave new world. Further, parallel conversations about the climate crisis raised the prospect of new, clean energy jobs as the world transitions to net zero.

But the economic impacts of the pandemic also laid bare underlying inequalities in the labour market and in the workplace. Women’s jobs have been 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic than those of men, according to McKinsey, with women over-represented in vulnerable industries such as retail and hospitality. There has been an increase in automation in both sectors. Women have also taken on more of the unpaid care burden. Those from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds have been particularly affected. According to the Fawcett Society, 50 per cent of BAME working women are worried about their job or promotion, compared to 43 per cent of working women in general.

Last year, jobs and skills were a big focus of the government’s coronavirus response – from the furlough scheme to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. As countries work to rebuild economies, there is growing consensus on the need for green and sustainable recovery. But if economic recovery plans, job creation schemes and the “new normal” of remote and flexible working do not proactively aim for equality of gender, race, disability and class, the future of work, however clean or automated it is, will look much like today when it comes to access and opportunity.

As the Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha de Cordova, tells Spotlight, unless government puts equality at the heart of policy as the world of work changes, “those groups that have been disproportionately negatively impacted” in the past will continue to be in the future.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Read more: Marsha de Cordova: the government should “stop with the culture wars” and focus on equality

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

This article originally appeared in the Spotlight report on the future of work. Click here for the full edition.

Topics in this article: