The future of employment, the employment of the future

Matthew Taylor and Mark Esposito

On 16 March 2018, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the dialogue "The Future of Employment" with the participation of Matthew Taylor and Mark Esposito.

Matthew TaylorTaylor, Director General of the Royal Society of Arts in London, will be in Madrid on 16 March. Taylor is a leading figure in the UK for his knowledge of modern forms of employment in the 21st century, and has in fact advised the British government in this area. Commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May, Matthew Taylor published an independent report on the challenges for the labour market posed by issues such as new forms of work, the digital economy and the collaborative economy. All of this, taking into account the implications for workers' rights and responsibilities. Taylor is also noted for his role in British politics, having previously served as Chief Political Strategy Adviser to the Prime Minister and before that as Labour's Policy Director.

Mark Esposito is Associate Professor of Strategy at IE Business School and Professor of Economics and Business in the Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University and Grenoble Graduate School of Management. He is also Co-Leader of the Institutes Council for the Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MOC) programme at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School. He is a Research Fellow at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and in Sustainability at the Cambridge Institute, CISL. Mark consults in the area of corporate sustainability, economic complexity, circular economy and global competitiveness, primarily to governments and cities. Mark advised the President of the European Parliament on the analysis of the EU systemic crisis and has contributed to the World Economic Forum with reports on innovation-driven entrepreneurship. He maintains collaborations with the Imperative Social Progress initiative and the Global Competitiveness Federation Council in Washington, D.C. Among many accolades, Thinkers50 has singled him out as one of the thinkers to watch in 2016.


The UK enjoys a good employment situation. Employment is growing, unemployment is low and the activity rate is high thanks to a flexible market with plenty of part-time, agency and casual or on-demand workers. Of course, this is not the best situation, but any job is better than being unemployed. That's the view of Mathew Taylor, director general of the Royal Society of Arts in London and author of the report 'Good work' on the future of employment in the UK commissioned by the British government. Taylor was at the Rafael del Pino Foundation on 16 March 2018 to take part in the dialogue "The future of employment, the employment of the future", in the course of which he explained the content of the report commissioned by the British government, as well as the response of Teresa May's government to its conclusions. For Taylor, the first priority is to maintain the flexibility of the labour market because, as he said, any job is better than no job at all. Moreover, he said, many part-time workers are happy with that situation. What we need to worry about, therefore, is not whether there are more or fewer part-time workers, but the treatment of casual workers, those who are immersed in the gig economy. In the UK there are two million people in this situation and the big challenge is how to regulate this new form of work. If the model spreads, companies start to treat their employees as if they were self-employed, then they will pay lower wages, there will be no paid holidays, no paid sick leave, and tax revenue will fall. Moreover, if this model develops in all sectors, there will be problems for the workers, but also for the government, which will lose part of its revenue. The question, therefore, is how to support casual workers. The government is responsible for the quantity of work in the economy, but it should also be responsible for the quality of work. Quality jobs matter because they are the basis of the social contract, because bad jobs lead to health problems, because job quality is closely related to productivity as well as to citizen participation, and because they are important in meeting the challenge of technological change, understanding that the purpose of technology must be to improve people's lives. After reading the report, the UK government understood that there must be a responsibility on its part in relation to the quality of work. In this regard, consideration should be given to how to ensure more hours of employment for casual workers and how to provide more security for people. One of the main concerns in relation to the labour market is low productivity, despite the fact that unemployment is low and labour is cheap. So much so that, contrary to expectations, labour is displacing technology because, with the influx of immigrants, it is cheaper. Productivity, however, is a social justice issue because it allows for better and better paid jobs with high levels of employment. Why is productivity so low in the UK? Progressive managers blame it on company managers and blame them because they don't engage workers with it. Their attitude is I pay you, you do what I tell you to do. Empirical evidence, however, shows that when workers are committed to the company, they are more productive. Another issue is that of junk jobs. To avoid this, every job must be fair and decent and must allow people to develop and have the possibility to progress on the job. On the threat posed by technology to employment, Taylor warned that we do not know what the future holds. We tend to overestimate the short-term impact and underestimate the long-term impact. Nor do we know what business models will look like in the future, or what their effect on employment will be. Reality shows that we can be wrong. For example, in the retail sector, where shops are disappearing because competition from online platforms is so strong, jobs are being created because work has moved to warehouses. However, what we have to bear in mind is that technological change must be at the service of the human being. Therefore, we must ensure that the regulatory framework is appropriate and that it promotes the improvement of people's well-being. Well-being, in fact, is what the younger generation is most concerned about. Young people want autonomy at work, they want purpose, they want work-life balance, they no longer own houses and cars because they prefer to share, and they spend less on goods and more on experiences. As far as Spain is concerned, according to Taylor, our country faces three challenges. The first of these is to improve the professional skills of workers. To do this, we need to combine training with practical learning. The education system needs to think more deeply about people's employability. We also need to think about lifelong learning, so that people can adapt to the new skill requirements of the labour market. The second problem is the high number of temporary and part-time workers, because this results in companies not investing in them and their training. The third is to recognise the importance of dialogue between government, employers and workers on issues such as the future of work, etc.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.