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ERA Action 11.3 “ERA Forum online workshop on “Twin Transitions and vulnerable groups; R&I actions, gaps and challenges” – 24 October 2023

20 November 2023

Annette Retsch and Orla Bannon

On 24th October 2023, the Coimbra Group, represented by members of the Employability Working Group, Chair Orla Bannon (Trinity College Dublin) and Vice-Chair Annette Retsch (University of Würzburg), participated in the third workshop of the ERA4FutureWork subgroup that was initiated by the European Commission. The subgroup plans to publish a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for the Future of Work incorporating insights and recommendations from the series of workshops in Q1 2024.

The key objective for this workshop was to discuss how the twin transition (digital and green) could create new vulnerable workers and identify future R&I needs, themes and questions on how to better integrate the experience of vulnerable workers (and other people in vulnerable situations as relevant), in policy and R&I projects on the twin transitions. Speakers from various backgrounds from government and the research community provided important insights into their work on this important topic.

The need to measure the impact of crises on vulnerable groups, as presented by Ann Coenen from Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Employment, Labour, and Social Dialogue, is crucial for understanding and addressing the challenges they face during times of crises. When looking at crises such as inflation, cost of living or the situation with Ukrainian refugees it highlights the need for an innovative inter-agency network approach. The impact of longer lasting crises particularly the climate crisis requires the monitoring of socio-economic effects and distributional impact of both the climate emergency and the necessary adaptation measures. This type of work and insights into the development processes of policies, social programs, and interventions that will mitigate the negative effects of crises on vulnerable groups can be helpful to countries or organizations seeking to improve their strategies for supporting vulnerable populations during challenging times.

The topic “Enabling a green and just transition in regional labour markets,” presented by Lukas Kleine-Rueschkamp from the Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities at the OECD, focused both on the green transition’s challenges and opportunities while transforming jobs, skills and local economies across regions in 30 OECD countries. The report Job Creation and Local Economic Development 2023: Bridging the Great Green Divide examines the geography of green and polluting jobs and explores the impact of the green transition on gender and socio-economic inequality by identifying the characteristics of workers in these jobs. It also tracks the progress regions have made in greening their labour markets over the past decade. Key questions to be addressed are: What skills are needed in green jobs and sectors? How will jobs change during the green transition? What policies are needed? What is missing so far? How can workers in polluting and declining industries move into green /in-demand jobs?

It was highlighted that the green transition is policy driven not market driven so there is a need to invest in new types of labour market information and in careers guidance and local development targeted to regions. The specific skills needed to drive this green transition also need to be clearly identified and appropriate upskilling/reskilling opportunities developed.

Maria Savona, Professor of Economics of Innovation, University of Sussex, focused on technological cycles and labour markets with evidence from European regions. In order to estimate the labour market effects of different automation technologies, four different areas were identified for exploration: Robots, Communications Technology, Information Technology and Software/Databases. The impact on the labour market of regional investments in these technologies during the various cycle phases were investigated. The main takeaways from this analysis are that short-term labour market impacts vanish in the long run (except for robots) and short-term adjustments are linked to the phase of the cycles rather than to characteristics of the region with most labour market impact in the adoption phase.

The session ended with Diotima Bertel from the Austrian Institute of Technology who highlighted that transforming vulnerabilities are key to addressing the challenges and opportunities of the twin transition. She noted that vulnerability is linked to processes and that we need to understand the lived experience and the situatedness of the individual and address inequalities at a structural level. This includes vulnerable groups such as women, migrants, older workers, low-skilled workers, and disabled workers among others. She discussed the need for digital agency and the need to move beyond knowledge and competencies to empower people. There also needs to be a focus on community wellbeing and on creating processes that do not prioritise one vulnerability over another.

The presentation sessions were followed by group discussions and reflections on future R&I needs. The concluding remarks by Rosa Mulè, Associate Professor, Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Bologna, highlighted the insights from the talks and pointed out some results from her recent research on gender labour market outcomes which showed the impact of labour market growth on women. In regions where governments provide support, women benefit from affordable, public, good quality child and elderly care and the participation rate of women in the labour market increases substantially which has an impact on economic growth. Support from the EU for such initiatives would be welcome.

The insights from this workshop will inform the activities of the Employability Working Group as it examines how to support an increasingly diverse cohort of students and graduates to prepare them to address the challenges of and make the most of opportunities in the future world of work.

The next workshop will take place on the 7th December 2023 on the future of work in public administration and governments.