Future of Work 2020

Productivity, growth and adapting to the new skills economy.

12 October 2020 TO 13 October 2020 — 1:00PM TO 5:00PM

Corporate members: Registration is complimentary for Chatham House corporate members via our virtual conference platform

Non-members: Participants from non-member organizations can register using the booking button above.

Chatham House was founded in 1920 with a vision ‘to help governments and societies build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world’. In the institute’s centenary year, the annual Future of Work conference will examine the megatrends reshaping the global economy and labour markets to assess how economies can sustainably transition to new patterns of skills and employment, demographic changes, and technological developments.

This conference will be held virtually and will address the organizational, policy and regulatory challenges posed by technological change across different sectors, focusing on the best ways to enhance productivity while protecting individual workers and equipping them with the necessary skills for the future. Discussions will explore key questions including:

  • What have remote working measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed about the 21st century workplace and its ability to evolve and adapt?

  • What is the best way to create sustainable, rewarding career pathways in the face of digitisation?

  • What does work look like from place to place and for different groups of people?

  • What is the scope for shaping career paths for an ageing demography of workers, and for workers facing untraditional first jobs?

  • How should the transition to a system of lifelong learning be managed?

In partnership with:

This conference is part of the Chatham House LIVE series and will be hosted online and on the record.

The LIVE series will bring together international audiences and enable participants to connect with peers from across the globe. Over the course of each LIVE conference, participants will be able to engage in high-level panel discussions and conversations between policy makers, business leaders and international experts. Other interactive features will include polling and live analysis of results, in addition to live question and answer sessions between participants and speakers. 



Monday 12 October (all times are BST)

Keynote speech


The Labour-Productivity Puzzle

The opening session will seek to identify the sources and implications of the slowdown in productivity occurring in advanced economies, and how to accelerate productivity to increase prosperity and economic growth in a changing labour market.

  • What are the primary factors behind the decline in productivity growth? Are these localized, or do they transcend national borders?

  • What are the key factors that will shape labour supply in developed economies? What is causing labour supply constraints in regions such as Europe, and what does it mean for workplace skills and productivity?

  • How will workplace preferences impact labour supply and overall productivity?

  • How can technology be deployed to improve labour market dynamism, and so increase productivity?

  • What have remote working measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed about the 21st century workplace and its ability to evolve and adapt?


Networking break


The Geography of Work

This discussion will focus on developed economies at the micro-level to understand what work looks like from place to place and for different groups of people.

  • How does the experience of work differ, and what does this tell us about the present shape and future of work across regions?

  • How are ‘work-adjacent’ issues such as transport, housing and healthcare shaping the geography of work?

  • What do patterns of labour mobility suggest about the shape and health of local economies?

  • How do the first-wave effects of a crisis impact the geography of work? How can harder hit sectors, workers and places rebound?


Networking break


Technological Progress and Opportunity

This session will examine how technological advances are driving changes in the modern workplace, and the challenges this presents for governments, policymakers and businesses to harness technology in ways that increase productivity and economic activity, while creating sustainable, long-term and rewarding career pathways for people.

  • How is technology changing the nature of work and which sectors are best able to capitalize on technological advancements? Which sectors are likely to be left behind?

  • In response to COVID-19, many businesses were forced to quickly transition to supporting a remote workforce. How can business models and individuals utilize technology to build-in resilience to planning for future crises?   

  • To what extent will future employability increasingly depend on the acquisition of new digital skills and know-how?

  • How can technological change be utilized to create economic opportunities and sustainable, rewarding career pathways?

  • What is the scope for using public–private partnerships to harness digital technologies in the move towards a more inclusive, fairer and sustainable economy and society? Where is this already being done successfully?


End of day one


Tuesday 13 October (all times are BST)

Human Capital Investment and Future Labour Markets

This session will address the options available to regulate type, quality and level of work, and how to address the dramatic slowdown in human capital investment so as to increase productivity and growth.

  • What is the scope for shaping career paths for young people with untraditional first jobs, or for an ageing labour market that is living longer but facing more frequent job changes and skills obsolescence?

  • How can companies be encouraged to think differently in order to invest in human capital? What are the most effective policies to help achieve this?

  • What is the best way to regulate alternative work to ensure that people receive their labour rights and protection?

  • How can competition in new areas of work increase the number of jobs without prompting a race to the bottom in terms of quality and level of work?


Networking break


Skills for the Future

This session will explore the opportunity for a fundamental change in the type and method of skills development and discuss who bears responsibility for equipping the workforce of the future.

  • How should the transition from front-loaded education to a system of lifelong learning be managed? Where have these types of programmes been successful?

  • What are the respective roles of policymakers and employers? How can training and learning be separated from past and present employment, so that the skills are transferable across jobs and careers?

  • From an employer perspective, how does the challenge of skills developments differ between sectors and types of employers, particularly those with widely distributed workforces?

  • How can the attainment of digital and cognitive skills be embedded in formal and non-formal education systems?

  • Which skills are likely to be the most relevant and useful for workers throughout their careers? What are the best methods for providing training in these?


End of conference