A new concept of work, currently under review

We are in front of a new global digital reality. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cloud, social networks… are some of the new concepts that are already part of our daily lives and whose purpose is to facilitate different procedures that cover all areas. Different sectors and citizens everywhere want to be in this virtual space where they can already work, take courses, consult the doctor, interact with relatives and clients or with office colleagues… We are moving forward in such a way that even the concept of work is questioned. It is not a question of knowing whether or not there will be employment, but of knowing how we will organize businesses and other social agents. This is precisely the central theme of number 121 of the TELOS review of the Fundación Telefónica: The future of work.

El nuevo número de esta publication, nacida en 1985 como una plataforma de investigación y reflexion en el ámbito de la comunicación social y con el propósito de preparours para la sociedad digital en la que ya vivimos, se centra en las nuevas oportunidades para resolve important matters like him development of more sustainable models, reconciliation, equality and depopulation through the impact of technology at work.

We are facing the challenge of rethinking our model of society: we must change our habits and behaviors, our way of learning and what we learn… And now technology frees us from work through robotization and automation, so what ? do we face? Will there be fewer jobs? This helps? What risks does this entail?

Jobs in the technological revolution

“With each technological revolution, jobs have not only not disappeared, but they have increased. Today, 3 billion people are working in the world, more than ever in history, and I am sure that in ten or twenty years, there will be many more. Employment will not be reduced with this technological revolution that we live, but it will increase, and not only certain service jobs, but also industrial jobs ”, explains Joaquín Nieto, vice-president of the Human Rights Association of Spain and expert member of the Spanish Council for Sustainable Development, through the interview included in this latest issue of TELOS magazine. “Our challenge is to a just transition where every opportunity for change is leveraged to generate more jobs and strengthen labor rights while addressing and avoiding the adverse effects of these transformations,” he adds.

An example in this sense is that, despite the fear of many workers, digitization and technologies create new jobs different and specialised, so that training assumes a driving role: “It is not a question of blowing up the current educational model, but of transforming it. Extend education throughout people’s lives. It is an essential change in educational systems, a decisive expansion of the educational capacities of society. The number of teachers and their capacities would increase because public education will be complemented by practical training that will also be provided within companies, among other institutions,” explains Joaquín Nieto.

On the other hand, the labor conditions constitute another point of concern for today’s society. According to the vice-president of the Human Rights Association of Spain, this new digital context makes them improve, “it can allow risky jobs to be replaced by others with less risk”, and this is also influenced by the transformations for climatic reasons: “The replacement of traditional and highly polluting energy production methods with more sustainable means will also represent a substantial improvement from the point of view of public health and working conditions. How many hundreds of thousands of miners have left life in the wells? Welcome the disappearance of jobs as painful as that which is exercised in the mines or in the oil stations, much worse than the jobs related to the production of wind, solar or other forms of energy renewables which, by the way, require highly skilled jobs”, he adds. And he adds: “The first thing that must be done for these energy and digital transitions to be fair is extend the social protection system to the whole world. Moreover, at the last International Labor Conference, the International Labor Organization recognized health and safety at work as one of the fundamental principles and rights. We are moving towards a more guaranteed social contract because the one that exists today is insufficient”, he concludes.

The new workplace

In a context like the current one, the number 121 TELOS: The future of work also focuses on telework: We must value the opportunities it offers, beyond the comfort of the employee. This new way of working, to begin with, may have a essential contribution to the environmentAs indicated Anabel Suso Araico, Director of Public Policy Innovation at Red2Redin his article published in the magazine Does the future of work go through telecommuting? The reduction in private transport combined with the reduction in travel results in a reduction in greenhouse gases and contributes to energy savings, as well as to the prevention of the collapse of transport in cities and, consequently, makes them more livable.

In addition, teleworking is a new way to end depopulation, especially in rural areas, since it allows you to move and settle anywhere with the only condition of being connected. In fact, Spanish administrations are developing successful strategies for digitizing these rural areas to encourage this repopulation.

If we focus on personal life and conciliation, if necessary and requested in our country, teleworking is the best solution to achieve this. But this carries a significant risk for women, as Anabel Suso points out in her article on TELOS, since they will probably be the ones who will most likely use this option, which can contribute to increasing the gender gap in employment, increase their double workload (family and professional) and bias the return to private space.

In this line of possible “cons”, and despite the fact that everything indicates that digitization and teleworking contribute to improving work efficiency, there is also the increased physical risks derivatives of a sedentary lifestyle, such as psychosocial problems, since it is more difficult to disconnect from work or digital overload, among others.

Therefore, and as the Director of Public Policy Innovation at Red2Red points out, the ideal future in the workplace is to use the combined formula: take advantage of the advantages of teleworking with an agreed face-to-face component. Similarly, “the new social contract of our time is one that guarantees a decent work with social protection in a safe environmenthealthy and ecologically sustainable, without gender discrimination and that responds, at the same time, to productive and reproductive needs, to production and care,” concludes Joaquín Nieto.

Thanks to experts, analysts and researchers such as those mentioned, TELOS de la Fundación Telefónica aspires to be more than a reference magazine, it aims to achieve the incorporation of our society, without exclusions, in the new digital reality .


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