The first discussion on Day 2 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conference – The Future of Work We Want: A Global Dialogue – was a special session. The session revolved around how youth of today see the future of work and their role in driving the progress to ensure a future 'we want'. During the panel’s introductions, it became clear that a major theme of the discussion would be the non-linear nature of work for young people, in which long-term careers at one company are being replaced by many different short-term jobs. This shift creates opportunities for non-traditional careers, but it also represents a precarious form of employment requiring new policy solutions.
The conversation first addressed the issue of unpaid internships. Ms Clémentine Moyart, European Youth Forum, emphasised the fact that unpaid internships largely reinforce inequality and deepen exclusionary forces because only those who can afford to be unpaid reap the benefits of the skills gained. Ms Salonie Hiriyur, an intern at the ILO, and Mr Ammin Youssouf, CEO of Afrobytes, agreed that unpaid internships unfairly indicate that the young person’s labour is not being valued. This concept of ‘creating value’ was revisited multiple times throughout the discussion, particularly regarding the type of work young people look for. The audience was polled, revealing that over 50% believed that the quality of work experience was the most important criterion for a young person entering the labour force, while the rest thought a good salary was most important. Youssouf argued that from a business perspective, it makes sense for employers to provide fulfilling work environments to attract and retain youth workers. However, there was some push-back in thinking of youth as one homogeneous group, especially considering the wide diversity in terms of skills, geography, education, and opportunities across the world. Mr Thiebaut Weber, ETUC Belgium, acknowledged that the approaches to labour policy of Western-centric international organisations such as the ILO, should become more inclusive.
The final part of the discussion revolved around the future of education in preparing youth for changing the labour markets. Participants identified two potential paths: a decentralised approach of home-schooling and online platforms, and a revamped communal education system. Weber, representing the labour union perspective, argued for the latter, believing that training rights and access to education are a social right and the responsibility of the collective. He took issue with pushing for more home-schooling, saying it will further increase inequality. All participants agreed that education must be transformed and distributed in more innovative ways, especially to reach emerging markets such as the rapidly growing need for education in Africa. Hiriyur argued for more emphasis on soft skills, such as communication and social networking in an increasingly automated world, and Youssouf warned against 'putting people into moulds' that restrict their ability to adapt and change jobs. Ultimately, education must allow youth to be flexible in a rapidly changing labour market while allowing the individual to seek personal fulfilment in the work they pursue.