The future of Work

The future of work

We will definitely not work less, but we will work differently in the future. Buzzwords like globalisation, digital (r)evolution, demographic change and work life, together with the growing importance of the ‘tertiary sector’, are leading to a restructuring of gainful employment. Consequently, even if the standard employment contract continues to dominate, alternative employment relationships will increase in importance. These new forms of employment will be characterised by a stronger focus on projects, for example. Flexible employment options such as contract work or part-time work, fixed term employment and ‘mini-jobs’ (marginal, part-time employment) will become increasingly important in this context. Work structures will also change accordingly: working hours and hierarchies will be more loosely structured; information, knowledge, ideas and actions will be linked together in a new way and jobs will no longer be tied to factories or offices. Emerging from all of this is the prospect of a complex and flexible world of work in which professional biographies and careers will be more diverse.

Another future trend: the world of work is becoming more female. Women already account for the majority of school leavers and university graduates and are also achieving better grades. However, in order to harness the potential of well-educated women, the balance between career and family life is just one area where improvement is required. According to representative surveys carried out by the Foundation, one in four German citizens believe that it is possible to have a good work life balance in Germany. We need policy makers and the business sector to create the relevant conditions for this to happen.

The integration of women into the world of work will increase the number of self-employed in particular. Up until now, less than one-third of self-employed people have been women. This will also increase the need for short-term office sharing and working groups, known as coworking spaces. These spaces provide a desk and infrastructure. They are a cost-effective solution for sole traders, freelancers and independent workers, who can avail of such spaces without obligation. The arrangement therefore suits the work structure of self-employed people but also satisfies the ‘traditional’ basic needs of workers: there is a physical separation between the workplace and the home and the premises provide a place for social interaction and collegial cooperation. An interdisciplinary exchange also takes place, which fosters innovation and facilitates the winning and communal planning of projects.

According to the Foundation’s studies, the issue of work will dominate political and social discourse in the coming years. More than 90 percent of Germans see the topic of unemployment as the main challenge of the future. However, demographic change will also play a part in this regard: instead of a lack of jobs, there will be a lack of employees in the future. Various reforms will attempt to counter this development. Because young people will complete their schooling or studies faster, they will be younger when they start working. In addition, as part of the extended working life resulting from pension reform, older employees will be in reintegrated into the workforce, with the result that it will be possible to start a new career at the age of 50. In addition to (further) training and (labour) migration, these issues will continue to be very important, especially in a European economic area that is becoming increasingly integrated.

A workforce that is comprised of a greater range of ages; employees that have an increasingly multicultural background; teams that consist of permanent internal and casual external employees: these factors mean that diversity management will be a key challenge for employers. For employees, it means that in addition to a greater willingness to be 'flexible', intercultural and social skills will also be key requirements.

With all of these changes in the world of work, however, one thing should not be forgotten: even in the future, work will still only account for a small part of life. With a lifespan of just under 700,000 hours, the average German spends just 10 percent of that time in gainful employment – considerably more time is spent watching television.

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Please note: Only the “Current Research” with a European focus has been produced in English. To that effect, most of our research can only be accessed in the original German text.