OT FORUM – ILO’s Ernst Ekkehard: Teleworking is here to stay


The labor market faces a number of challenges, both short- and long-term, according to Ernst Ekkehard, head of ILO Macroeconomic Policy and Labor

Speaking to OT FORUM 2 about the challenges facing the industry, Mr Ekkehard referred to the effects of the pandemic, technological and geopolitical developments, as well as climate change and green transitions and an aging population, especially in Europe. “There is a huge insecurity, but the unemployment rate has dropped even after the pandemic. What we are seeing is an increase in insecurity and uncertainty, a decline in purchasing power and a drop in employee earnings. There is not a sufficient number of young people and this results in many jobs being left vacant,” he emphatically stated

The digital revolution has only benefits

Referring to the introduction of new technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the labor sector, the ILO official noted that it is one of the benefits we expect, since because of the lack of enough young people entering the job market, new technology will help fill some gaps, not by replacing jobs but complementing existing workers.

As he said, we must see how we can become more industrious and how the workplaces will be safer, while he gave for example he noted that after a big building fire in Germany, robotic dogs analyzed the stability of the skeleton, thus ensuring safety, and not really replacing the position of a living person.

Constantly acquiring new skills

Mr. Ekkerhard noted that since we now work 35-40 throughout our lives we must acquire many skills and abilities, while the concept of remaining with one firm for 25 years does not exist. Mr Ekkehard referred to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, according to which the majority of our labor market skills comes from previous employment and not from our studies. Employees must be willing to be trained and companies should recognize this and also governments need to assist. According to him, there should be a formula for the protection of skills and not positions.

Teleworking is here to stay

Finally, speaking about teleworking and the conclusions that emerged during the pandemic, Mr. Ekkehard described it as a topic that has been in vogue lately, stating that teleworking is here to stay, since the lack of manpower leads many to work from home. “Teleworking will remain, but I estimate that we will not see the productivity that many expected with the application of new technologies in distance work,” he opined.