Future of work 2021

Join policymakers, senior business leaders and labour market experts to assess the megatrends transforming the nature of work, with a focus on skills, adaptability and resilience.

7 October 2021 TO 8 October 2021 — 1:00PM TO 4:00PM

Fostering resilience and adaptability

The next Future of Work conference will take place on 15 March 2023. For information about attendance, sponsorship or marketing, please contact the Conferences team.

This year’s annual Chatham House Future of Work conference will assess the mega-trends transforming the nature of work and evaluate potential policy and business strategies to respond and thrive in an era of rapid change with a focus on skills, adaptability, and resilience. 

Join an international audience of policymakers, senior business leaders, inter-governmental and multilateral organizations, and other experts to connect and engage in discussion over two days. With a focus on interactivity, key features in the virtual environment include 1:1 networking, polling, Q&A with speakers and live analysis of results.

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

Why attend?

  • Get ahead of the key trends reshaping the world of work in the short- and long-term.

  • Understand how business leaders are responding and the implications of changing regulation and policy forces on your strategy. 

  • Gain insight into how digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI) is recalibrating labour markets and job demand.

  • Have your say on what the changing nature of work means for skills development and upskilling.



Thursday 7 October (BST – timings subject to change)

Keynote speech

Mims Davies MP, Minister for Employment, Department for Work & Pensions, UK Government 


Building resiliency for the future of work

This session will explore the short and longer-term trends redefining the global economy and labour markets, and the actions needed to support equitable growth and build adaptability in the face of future forces of change.

  • What trends will shape the world of work in the short- and long-term and how can we prepare at a policy, societal and business level to ensure resiliency and mitigate future disruption? 
  • How can the opportunities presented by changing business models and labour markets be embraced for the greater good, without exacerbating existing inequalities and shortcomings? 
  • How are organizations rethinking work? What do innovative strategies that promote resiliency and agility look like?
  • To what extent is focus shifting to value intangible assets such as human capital and prioritise the “S” of ESG? Where are we seeing success in adopting a more people-centred approach that values investment in human and social capital?

Patrick Hull, VP Future of Work, Unilever 
Bill Schaninger, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company 
Tessa Forshaw, Teaching Faculty and Instructor, Harvard University 
Bettina Schaller, Head, Group Public Affairs,  Adecco Group 


Networking break


Changing nature of work

This session analyses changing workplace geographies including the challenges and opportunities created by a shift to distributed and remote working models and reducing barriers to labour force participation.

  • Is the world witnessing a fundamental redesign of the workforce and the workplace in the long-term? If so, what does this mean for the future of mega-cities and traditional employment hubs? 
  • What innovative approaches are emerging in how workplaces are being reimagined and utilized? 
  • In response to job growth concentration and decline, how adequate have policy and business responses been in addressing regional and sectoral imbalances and does the changing geography of work present new pathways for the public and private sector to bridge socio-economic divisions?
  • How can the world better combat inequality, social mobility and remove barriers to labour force participation in the face of rapid workplace transformation?
  • How can we better prepare for the next set of challenges and opportunities likely to emerge as we transition to a new normal?

Henriette Kolb, Head, Gender and Economic Inclusion Group, International Finance Corporation  
Roberto Suárez Santos, Secretary-General, International Organisation of Employers 
Bruce Daisley, Former VP, Twitter 
Despina Katsikakis, Global Lead, Total Workplace, Cushman & Wakefield 

Pilita Clark, Business Columnist, Financial Times 


Networking break


Digital transformation and pathways for inclusive growth

This session investigates the extent to which the scale and pace of technological change has been accelerated, the implications for labour markets and considerations for increasing productivity and leveraging employment opportunities.

  • In what ways is the rapid adoption of e-commerce, automation and AI recalibrating labour markets and job demand and what skills will be most sought-after in the digital age?
  • What does a just transition to a digital-first society entail and what are the key issues that need to be considered?
  • What measures need to be deployed at a regulatory level to stimulate investment in digital infrastructure, aid reliable connectivity and empower the workforce to leverage digital opportunities?
  • Is there room for greater collaboration with the private sector and does the business community have a leading role to play?

Allen Blue, Co-Founder and VP Product Management, LinkedIn Anu Madgavkar, Partner, McKinsey Global Institute  
Liz Williams, CEO, FutureDotNow  

Joe Lynam, Broadcaster, BBC World Service 


End of day one


Friday 8 October (BST – timings subject to change)

Accelerating stability and equality across labour markets

This session maps out the direction of travel needed to effect meaningful change for informal and unrepresented ‘gig economy’ workers across regions, focusing on regulatory and business level reforms to develop a human-centred future of work that promotes stability, inclusivity and productivity.

  • How can platform business models be made sustainable in the long-term and to what extent can they be reconfigured to provide inclusive employment models? 
  • How can businesses address inadequacies from a regulatory perspective and what new approaches should be considered to reduce informality in the labour force? 
  • What would a global policy response with social safety nets across jurisdictions look like in practice?
  • How do approaches around regions and countries vary?

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation 
Corinne Deléchat, Division Chief, African Department, IMF 
Manuel Mera, Research Associate, CIPPEC

Christopher Sabatini, Senior Research Fellow, Latin America, US and the Americas Programme, Chatham House


Networking break


Skills of the future

The session explores what the changing nature of work means for skills development, focusing on education ecosystems and strategies to reduce disparity, boost labour participation and create sustainable and resilient career pathways for the 21st century labour market.

  • What is the role of governments and businesses in supporting job transitions and facilitating measures to respond to the changing skills mix as a means of encouraging labour stability and growth? 
  • What is the role of education in ‘future-proofing’ employment prospects? 
  • Is life-long learning key to success?
  • How can access to skills development and learning be effectively democratized? 
  • What is the outlook for job growth in the next 5-10 years and what solutions are needed now and, in the future, to bridge the skills gap? 
  • How do we ease the entrance of the next-generation into the labour markets?

Sir Christopher Pissarides, Regius Professor of Economics, London School of Economics
El Iza Mohamedou, Head, OECD Centre for Skills
Matthew Brittin, President, Business & Operations, EMEA, Google 

Lesley Giles, Director, Work Advance


End of day two


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