For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Constructing the ‘Future of Work’: An analysis of the policy discourse"

by Schlogl, Lukas; Weiss, Elias; Prainsack, Barbara (2021)


Advances in labour-saving technology have sparked a public debate about the ‘Future of Work’. An important role in this debate is played by policy-focused literature produced by institutions such as government agencies, international organisations, think tanks, and consulting firms. Using qualitative coding, the present study analyses this ‘grey’ literature (a total of 195 documents published in English 2013–2018) with a focus on what problem perceptions, frames, and policy recommendations prevail in this literature. We find that the dominant narrative treats technological advances as a prime cause of challenges in the labour market and places the main responsibility on the shoulders of individuals in the form of ‘upskilling’. We show how versions of this narrative vary across different types of institutions, what types of organisations are the most prolific publishers of policy papers in this space, and we offer a critique of dominant narratives within the ‘Future of Work’ discourse.

Key Passage

Our findings show the dominance of a specific narrative within the grey policy literature on FOW. It starts with the assumption of unprecedented, rapid technological advance that, embedded in demographic and ecological transformations as well as globalisation, creates opportunities and risks. The main opportunities are gains in productivity, new jobs and higher living standards. The risks are new inequalities, pressures on social security systems, and the costs of transition and disruption for various groups. The answer to these challenges lies in the re- or upskilling of the workforce and adjustments to social and labour market policies. (p.14)


The Future Of Work, Employment, Skills, Technology


Technology, Skills, Automation

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