Within the dual context of the centennial celebration of the Ministry of Labour and as an answer to a challenge launched by the International Labour Organization Director-General, the International Conference on the Future of Work will be held in the Trindade Theater, in Lisbon, on October the 19th ,.



The industrial revolution and the successive innovations that succeeded it caused changes in the productive specialization of countries and regions, benefiting the expansion of certain sectors over others. These changes were often accompanied by catastrophic predictions of the future. History teaches us that society was able to react to these disruptions renewing social requirements and adapting them to current times. A paradigmatic example of new boundaries that were set was the prohibition of child labour, but many others could be mentioned, for example in the fields of labour relations or environmental responsibility. Although with less visibility than the industrial revolution, we now face global challenges of great complexity which arise from a context of very fast technonological change with far-reaching structural implications.

This Panel aims to put in context the theme of the Future of Work, taking into account the dimension of technological innovation and the impact of the new economy on traditional models of employment relations. It can be subdivided into the following sub-themes:


i) Technological innovation and the new economy

Increasingly the economy evolves with the development and integration of technological innovations. Innovation has become the main competitive weapon between companies and between countries. More and more, owning technological knowledge leads to economic and political dominance.

Digitalization, new communication and manufacturing technologies represent opportunities for employers and workers. Taking advantage of these opportunities requires from policy makers, businesses and social partners the ability to adapt to changes which are already underway, enabling them to face critical challenges which arise from new forms of work organization, creation and maintenance of employment and the development and adaptation of qualifications and skills.

The digital era will increasingly require  new qualifications and skills for new jobs and new ways of working. As a consequence, many countries, such as Portugal, face the complex challenge of articulating short-term goals of economic recovery with the investment in structural factors, whose impacts are more distant in time, but without which it will not be possible to compete in a global economy in major transformation.


ii) The new forms of work organization

The ongoing changes are causing disruptions in the organization of production and labour, questioning traditional models – even the very own nature and definition of “work” – as never before. The digital era and the new collaborative economy that emerges from it, is deeply restructuring the labour market, valuing different types of skills over others, which will also lead to new risks of exclusion.

As was stated in the ILO report presented last June (…) An increasingly globalized economy experiencing rapid and deep change under the impetus of technological transformations and a constant quest for increased competitiveness, and conditioned by an evolving policy agenda and, more recently, renewed geopolitical tensions, is generating major developments in the way that work and production are organized. (…)But it is above all in the private sector, where most jobs are and most new ones are created, that the real impetus and impact of the reorganization of work and production are to be found, (…) the question that arises is whether and how this matters, and what the implications are (…)

It is important to think over how, in the future, the working place will evolve, the day-to-day work might change and the impact these transformations will have on business managing methods and contractual relationships between companies and workers.


iii) Labour relations in a context of change

Labour relations are changing. The economic and financial crisis has aggravated the tendency towards labour market deregulation, notably by reducing the coverage of collective agreements and promoting a shift towards more decentralized collective bargaining, transferring negotiation structures/processes to the company level or even to the level of the workplace.

The recovery of Europe’s economy and the increase of its competitiveness is essential but it this process must be managed hand-in-hand with ensuring the creation of decent and quality jobs. This process requires a sustained and coordinated effort at all levels and the social partners have, in this context, a crucial role to play.

To address the pressing socio-economic challenges it is essential to strengthen the role of social dialogue which is crucial to promote competitiveness and fairness, both at national and European levels. It is a key instrument for better governance and the promotion of social and economic reforms. Also, it has the potential to contribute to i) the resolution of important economic and social issues, ii) the promotion of decent work and fundamental rights at work, ii) encouraging good governance and conflict prevention, iv) advances in social and industrial peace and stability; v) boosting economic progress and vi) transforming society towards a more stable social model;

In addition to all the challenges we are facing, we also have to assess the impact on the stability of the economies of demographic decline, low natural population growth rates and the ageing of a significant part of the European population, particularly considering health and social protection systems.

Given that the demographic imbalances do not occur across the Globe, the development of common migrant integration policies, however, could prove crucial to narrow Europe’s population deficit, while contributing to its economic and social integration. This and other questions such as the transition from active life to retirement and the promotion of lifelong learning, remain key elements to the debate on the future of work.



This panel aims to deepen the discussion on the relationship between the European Social Model and the construction of Europe.

The social dimension, based on the principles of solidarity, equality and social cohesion has been the cornerstone of the fundamental principles of the European Union and its growth. However, the economic and financial crisis that has impacted in recent years has produced harmful effects and we have been witnessing, in particular, the weakening of the European Social Model.

In fact, fiscal reform and austerity policies that have been imposed on Member States, affected the main elements of the European Social Model, namely labour market and social protection policies with negative impacts on workers’ rights and working conditions.

In Portugal, the economic crisis has also interrupted a path of progress in the field of qualifications and competencies, destroying jobs and physical capital and leading to the erosion and loss of human capital. The improvement of investment levels and the targeting of resources towards this priority field is being made, today, in a more difficult context with the deterioration of incentives to carry on learning and postpone school-leaving and training. Indeed, the growth of the number of jobless with higher education and the fewer opportunities for qualified young people to access quality jobs, compared to what happened in the past, has contributed to send wrong signals to society – the lower “education premium” constitutes an obstacle to the structural transformation that the country needs.

On the other hand, alongside the lasting effects of the economic and financial crisis, new jobs and new labour relations that emerge from the digital economy require the rethinking of the instruments and the regulatory solutions but also of the social protection schemes inspired by the European Social Model. The ongoing transformations call into question traditional models on which these are based, namely the “regular” and stable labour relations that have ceased to be the standard for new generations of workers, contrary to what happened in the past.

How should European policies be oriented in order to achieve greater convergence and resilience of economic structures? What is the role of employment policies and of the social dimension of economic and tax policies?

What principles should underlie the reference framework of ongoing reforms at national and European levels so as to serve as a compass to strengthen the social dimension?

How should labour market policies be adjusted and converge in order to allow for more just and equitable societies?



This session aims to promote the discussion surrounding the adequacy of legislation, employment policies and collective bargaining to changes in the labour market, which converge towards the emergence of new sectors, the increasing levels of competition, the liberalization of markets namely through the commercialization of products and services through online platforms, and the need to safeguard fair and equitable labour markets.

At a time of change and uncertainty it is fundamental to have what it takes in order to overcome the current challenges. Thus, to identify and understand the forces of pressure that shape strategic and organizational change in the world of work is one of the key factors to successfully manage this process.

The development of a structured vision of the future is essential to allow labour market actors to make informed decisions concerning the investments to be done and the professional skills that are needed.

It is of utmost importance for companies to strengthen their skills and their management and adaptation capacities to enable them to compete successfully. To accomplish this it is central to design structured public policies but also concerted strategies with and between the social partners, both at the macro and sectoral levels, that will allow to face  risks and attend to new and emerging needs.

– What is the impact of new forms of work in collective bargaining?

– What can social partners do to ensure that the ongoing transformation process will have a strong social dimension?

– The current regulatory framework is adequate to meet the challenges and opportunities that arise from the ongoing transformations?

– How can legislation and social security ensure better coverage of the new ways of working? What must be changed?



The last session aims to bring into discussion the different dimensions and impacts of technological innovation in the world of work.

This is not a medium or short term forecast. It is a change that is already underway, here and now, and that forces us to rethink the rules that are guiding labour markets and the types of professional skills that we are developing

The technological revolution has shown that in the medium / long term it will redesign labour markets and create the need of new skills for workers. The nature and the form of work, the workplace, working time arrangements and many other dimensions will be subject to a strong change.

It is essential to reflect upon the changes that are happening in the world of work and what response strategies can be implemented by policy makers, other legislative mechanisms, the business sector and the social partners, to ensure a positive adjustment between labour relations and the economy.

– Who will win and who will lose from the impact of the new technologies?

– What will be the nature of the changes that will affect employment and labour as we perceive them today?

– What strategies could be used to adapt the workforce and working conditions to changes brought about by the use of new technologies?

– How to ensure that technological progress benefits all workers and society in general?

– Which challenges, that arise from these changes, will be key to set new labour relations, and what will be the most effective regulatory regimes to manage this change?

– How can traditional institutions manage, in an effective way, workplaces and workforces that transcend national borders?

– What skills will be required in the near future?

– What will be the biggest gaps in skills?

– How should education and training priorities readjust in order to encourage employment growth?


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