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Smart communications technology has enabled people to hire themselves out as independently contracting workers in everything from taxi drives to video producers and gardeners. But what is the status of these workers, and what are the challenges of the so-called gig economy?

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“Workin' 9 to 5; What a way to make a living”, Dolly Parton sang in her classic hit. The year was 1980, and Parton’s character in the eponymous film, 9 to 5, already pioneered numerous policies of the new world of work to come, such as flexible work hours and a job-sharing programme. Some of these changes have since become widespread in certain countries and industries. And they affect social protection policies, too, as the OECD report The Future of Social Protection: What Works for Non-standard Workers? shows.

Policy Forum on the Future of Work, 14 January 2016; Employment and Labour Ministerial Meeting, 15 January 2016

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Ireland’s job market has improved markedly, thanks in no small part to strong policies for new skills to meet evolving demands and engagement with people out of work. 

For all the signs of improving labour market conditions in many OECD countries, there is still a substantial way to go to close the jobs gap caused by the Great Recession of 2008-09. Unemployment will continue to fall in most countries, but by the end of 2017, it will still be well above pre-crisis levels in a number of them. 

The world is still repairing the damage done to employment prospects and social equality by the crisis. Governments are trying to create not just more jobs, but better jobs. A new OECD framework helps them to define what job quality means and to measure whether their policies are succeeding. 

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"A real problem for the world economy is the location mismatch between available jobs and employees. Skills mismatch in an employment landscape is mainly an outcome of structural rigidities in labour markets, but it is also influenced by cyclical gaps between demand and supply. Job creation is fundamental, but all aspects of the skills mismatch must be addressed."

"There are many opportunities for lifelong learning available at the click of a button, so why is it that many employers still report a 'skills gap'?"

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Social entrepreneurs and governments speak different languages. However, understanding each other is essential to achieve quality of life through the businesses we start, grow and scale. While sharing a goal for a healthier society, it remains a challenge for new entrepreneurs and governments to work together: first, to integrate the different ambitions, values and cultures of (social) entrepreneurs, civil servants and politicians; second, to be aligned in the acceptance, timing and implementation of societal solutions through enterprising citizens. What is the role of business in creating spaces for social entrepreneurship and a more collaborative economy?

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Thanks to smart online and phone technologies, dynamic new business platforms that are altering the parametres in property, transport and other service-driven markets are fast emerging.

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A structural shift to a low-carbon economy will entail gains in jobs, but also losses, and the first jobs to be lost are not those that you think. A just energy transition will be needed, but how? 

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Unequal pay between men and women continues to pose problems, despite decades of legislation by governments to address it, like the Equal Pay Act in the United States and the French labour code on wage equality introduced about half a century ago. In fact, not only are women still paid considerably less than men throughout the world, but UN predictions suggest the gap will persist for 70 years to come.  

How will workers’ current skills match new requirements for labour in a green economy? So far, few countries have put in place real plans to address this question, yet there is risk of a significant mismatch between skills and jobs. Would you know who to call if your geothermal system crashes? Should construction workers learn new skills for retrofitting buildings?

Since 2009 the French government launched a new “auto-entrepreneurs’’ status to help small, often one-person, businesses below a certain earnings threshold to bypass many formalities of registration, in an effort to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and jobs. By mid-2014, the number of auto-entrepreneurs reached nearly 1 million, according to a French business creation agency, APCE. However, according to the national statistics office, INSEE, most of these businesses have made little if any money at all. The crisis has hardly helped, but is there a recipe for success?

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q2 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 1.6% September 2019 annual
Trade: -1.9% exp, -0.9% imp, Q2 2019
Unemployment: 5.1% August 2019
Last update: 6 November 2019

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