Future of Work 2018

Opportunities and risks in a digital age

24 May 2018 - 09:30 to 17:00
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Chatham House, London





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Since the Industrial Revolution, major technology-driven economic shifts have involved significant social and political disruption. The rapid pace of technological change in the workplace today has caused many to reassess the fundamental nature of work in a climate of ongoing economic stagnation, productivity slowdown and decoupling between growth and real wages. 

Digitization and automation are opening up new possibilities for collaboration, production and management, and whilst this transformational change offers substantial opportunities, it also brings with it significant challenges and disruptions for labour markets, skills development and organizational structures. How technology continues to shape our society and determine the nature and quality of work will depend largely on how policy-makers, business leaders and workers understand and respond to these shifts. 

The third annual Chatham House conference will examine the drivers transforming the world of work and evaluate potential policy and industry responses. Sessions will explore key questions including: 

  • What are the latest digital transformations and major social, economic and cultural trends disrupting the world of work?
  • How can different economies and workforces benefit from increasing digitization and technological change? 
  • What are the main challenges governments and businesses are facing as they try to keep up with and prepare for changing skills? 
  • How can greater flexibility in the labour force be achieved? What are the most effective regulatory strategies for managing this shift? 
  • Will innovation outpace regulation? What are the risks involved in this? 
  • What is the role of social attitudes in driving the uptake and regulation of new technologies in the workplace?

In partnership with:

McKinsey & Company

The Chatham House Rule 
To enable as open a debate as possible, this conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule.


Thursday 24 May

Session One | The Productivity Crisis

This opening session will examine the latest trends in labour markets and explore potential regulatory and industry strategies to enhance productivity in the current economic climate. 

  • How can the design, development and deployment of digital technologies drive increased national productivity? What are the key issues that transcend national borders?
  • In what ways do productivity challenges differ across developed and emerging economies? Is delivering growth through higher productivity becoming a priority? 
  • How should success be measured? Are metrics such as productivity still relevant?  
  • Can automation and artificial intelligence be utilized to boost productivity? What challenges and risks accompany this?  
  • Will rapid technological change be accompanied by social unrest and political upheaval? How is the decoupling between growth and real wages linked to a wider populist debate? 
  • How can policy help alleviate inequalities and promote inclusion in a digital age? Is universal basic income feasible or desirable? What are the alternatives?

Session Two | Technology and Job Disruption

This session will address how technological trends are changing the world of work, exploring policy implications as well as the impact of innovation across different jobs and industries.  

  • Who are the winners and losers of technology-driven change? Which sectors are likely to experience the most growth? Where can the greatest value be gained and how will effects differ across economies and regions? 
  • Will increasing automation put jobs at risk or will this create new employment opportunities? Are we seeing job losses as lower- and middle-income jobs become mechanized? What is the impact on highly skilled workers? 
  • In what ways will automation and robotics result in a reclassification and rebalancing of work? How can we better facilitate connectivity between humans and machines?
  • How can governments, businesses and civil society work together to develop a responsible approach to governing the impact of technology on jobs? Should this include a clear discussion on the ethics of artificial intelligence? What is the best route for introducing ethics into the technological and societal agenda?
  • In what ways has technological innovation impacted shifts in global economic power? Do emerging markets face the biggest challenge and will technology increase the gulf with the developed world?

Session Three | Human Capital Investment and Enabling the Workforce of the Future

This session will examine potential policy frameworks and industry strategies to equip the workforce of the future and match worker supply to demand in a rapidly evolving marketplace with ever-changing and uncertain skills requirements. 

  • Are businesses hindered by a fragmented skills system and lack of systematic engagement between education and industry? What are the best strategies for encouraging collaboration between academia, industry and government at each stage of the innovation cycle?
  • Has there been an ongoing investment shift from human capital to technology? Should there be an increase in research and development budgets at a fixed percentage of GDP? 
  • What strategies exist to enhance worker adaptability to new technologies and skills requirements? Can we harness technologies in such a way that they require minimal training? To what extent are digital skills becoming the fourth literacy? 
  • How can employers and educators build a flexible and agile workforce through continuing professional development and work experience? What is the role of incentives aimed at encouraging mobility, upskilling and lifelong learning? 
  • How can government foster home-grown talent while retaining existing skills capacities?
  • What are the potential implications of ongoing political transitions on skills and labour shortages? How will Brexit affect the UK’s ability to attract highly skilled workers? Are migration policy responses adequate, or even appropriate? 

Session Four | Transforming the Workplace

This closing session will focus on how technological change is reshaping working environments globally, examining the ways in which technology is facilitating new opportunities for smarter regulation, more flexible entitlements and new ways for people to organize in a digitally integrated workplace. 

  • How can corporate leadership promote a culture of innovation and collaboration across the traditional matrix that exists in organizations? Is a fundamental redesign of the workplace required? 
  • Are technological advances reducing worker dependence on traditional employment structures and infrastructure? How are employee expectations evolving? 
  • How can regulators enable access and flexibility in the gig economy whilst providing security to independent workers? Can gigs replace salaried employment altogether or is new regulation challenging the contractor model that underpins the on-demand economy? 
  • Is the traditional office becoming obsolete as cloud-based technologies make work infinitely more flexible? To what extent is the ability to work from anywhere, combined with advances in telecommunications, making workers geographically neutral? What are the implications of this? 
  • In what ways are territorial borders becoming increasingly permeable as a result of outsourcing and internationally mobile workforces? Does this place a renewed focus on supply chain issues and employment regulation?

1700 End of conference and reception hosted by Chatham House

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs 2018

Joseph Aoun

President, Northeastern University
Allen Blue to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2016 conference

Allen Blue

Co-Founder and VP Product Management, LinkedIn
Naomi Climer to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Naomi Climer

Commissioner, Independent Commission on the Future of Work
John Evans to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

John Evans

General-Secretary, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (1985-2017)
Carl Frey to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Carl Benedikt Frey

Co-Director, Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, University of Oxford
Lesley Giles to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Lesley Giles

Director, Work Foundation
Lynda Gratton to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2016 conference

Lynda Gratton

Professor of Management Practice, London Business School
Damian Grimshaw to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Damian Grimshaw

Director, Research Department, International Labour Organization
Ronan Harris to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Ronan Harris

Managing Director for UK & Ireland, Google
Linda Kromjong to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Linda Kromjong

Secretary General, International Organisation of Employers
Neil Lawrence to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Neil Lawrence

Director of Machine Learning, Amazon
James Manyika to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2016 conference

James Manyika

Director, McKinsey Global Institute
Geoff Mulgan to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive, NESTA
Dr Konstantinos Pouliakas to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Dr Konstantinos Pouliakas

Department for Skills and Labour Market, European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
Bruce Reed to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Bruce Reed

CEO and Co-Founder, Civic
Rachel Reeves MP to speak at Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Rachel Reeves MP

Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee
Shail Thaker to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

Shail Thaker

Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company
Saadia Zahidi to speak at the Chatham House Future of Work 2017 conference

Saadia Zahidi

Head of Education, Gender and Work, World Economic Forum


Register by Friday 23 March 2018 to benefit from the early booking rate.

Ways to book:

  1. Online: Click here to complete the online registration form
  2. Phone: Call Georgia Dalton on +44 (0)20 7314 2785
  3. Download a PDF registration form, complete and return to Clare Smyllie via email or post: Chatham House, 10 St. James's Square, London, SW1Y 4LE

Check if your organization is a member of Chatham House here.



Partners and major corporate members  
All organizations£495£595
Standard corporate members  
Commercial organizations£1,085£1,180
Government departments£620£700
NGOs and academics£380£460
Commercial organizations£1,190£1,295
Government departments£680£750
NGOs and academics£440


Your delegate pass includes:

  • Conference attendance
  • Documentation
  • Lunch and refreshments

Travel and accommodation are not included. View a list of recommended hotels here.

GLG to sponsor the Chatham House Future of Work 2018 conference

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, please contact Sandra Smits on +44 (0)20 7314 3699

London HR Connection
The Work Foundation

If you are interested in becoming a media partner for this event, please contact Ayesha Arif on +44 (0)20 7957 5753

Chatham House
10 St James's Square
[email protected]

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7957 5643
Fax: +44 (0)20 7957 5710

If you wish to book the venue for your own event please phone +44 (0)20 7314 2764

The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus which is on the Piccadilly and the Bakerloo Underground lines. From Piccadilly follow Regent Street southwards towards Pall Mall and take the first road on the right called Jermyn Street. Duke of York Street is the second road on the left and leads to St James's Square. Chatham House is immediately on your right.


Although we cannot book accommodation for delegates, we have arranged a reduced rate at some nearby hotels, where you can book your own accommodation. Please inform the hotel that you will be attending a conference at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) to qualify for the Institute's reduced rate.

Please note all rates are subject to availability.

Flemings Mayfair
13 Half Moon Street
London - W1J 7BH

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7499 2964
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7499 1817
[email protected]

Classic Double without breakfast: £195 +VAT

The Cavendish London
81 Jermyn Street
London - SW1U 6JF

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7930 2111
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7839 2125
[email protected] 

Classic Room without breakfast: £205 +VAT

Book The Cavendish online

The Stafford London 
St James's Place
London - SW1A 1NJ

Tel: 020 7493 0111
Fax: 020 7493 7121
[email protected]

Classic Queen without breakfast: £247 +VAT
Quote Chatham House


This conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Information for journalists.

Press can request a press pass.

For enquiries relating to the conference agenda or sponsorship please call Sandra Smits on +44 (0) 20 7314 3699

For registration enquiries please call Georgia Dalton on +44 (0)20 7314 2785

For general enquiries please email [email protected] 

The Chatham House Rule

To enable as open a debate as possible, this event will be held under the Chatham House Rule.