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High Level Event of the 73rd General Assembly on The Future of Work

Organized on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the International Labour Organization - ILO - 10 April 2019

The year 2019 represents an important milestone for the United Nations as its first specialized agency, the International Labour Organization, marks its one-hundredth anniversary. The ILO was founded on the realization that clear rules were needed to ensure that economic progress went hand in hand with social justice, prosperity and peace for all.

Such principles remain fundamental today as new forces driven by technological advancements, structural transformations, changing demographics, globalization and climate change rapidly reshape the world of work.

The future of work presents countless opportunities to reverse long-term decent work deficits, but it also presents serious challenges that could increase inequalities and joblessness if not well managed. How well countries adapt to such changes will be a major determinant in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. As was the case in 1919 when the ILO was founded, decisive action is needed from all stakeholders in order to forge a positive development path that unlocks new opportunities for the future of work while mitigating growing inequalities and other uncertainties.

The onset of new technological advances – artificial intelligence, automation and robotics – are already creating vast opportunities for new jobs. Yet, those who lose their jobs as result of new technologies may be less equipped to seize new opportunities and may be added to the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Global dependence on technology means that the skills in demand today will not match the jobs of tomorrow. Skills acquisition and lifelong learning will be required for workers to remain agile and employable. The greening of economies holds the potential to create millions of new decent jobs as sustainable practices and clean technologies are adopted. Coherent policies are needed to provide a just transition for workers as existing jobs, working methods and skills are redefined. Changes in demographics with growing youth populations in some parts of the world and ageing populations in others place pressures on labour markets and social security systems. Yet, demographic shifts also mean new possibilities to transform more inclusive societies.

Over the last decade, there has been a rise in part-time employment, especially among women and youth. In the majority of countries with available information, part-time jobs outpaced gains in full-time jobs between 2009 and 2015. In some cases, non-standard forms of work can be the entry door to the job market. However, these emerging trends can also lead to widespread insecurity.

In order to achieve the goal of decent work for all, increased efforts are necessary to ensure the full and equal participation of women in the labour market. Globally, women are paid less and are more likely to work in vulnerable categories of work, such as domestic workers. In the majority of countries, women in the informal economy live in households that are poor. Women also continue to bear the brunt of unpaid care and domestic work.

With more than 64 million unemployed youth worldwide and 145 million young workers living in poverty, youth employment remains a global challenge. Investing in lifelong learning mechanism in particular digital skills, in entrepreneurship and sectoral strategies that expand decent jobs and address the vulnerabilities of the most disadvantaged should be among the top policy priorities. Developing countries are experiencing additional challenges with high levels of informality and the need to transition these workers to formal employment which can help increase protection as well as enhance revenue for governments to improve and expand the provision of social protection measures, make investments in education and infrastructure. Additionally, many countries face the challenge of diversifying their economies away from low-productivity agriculture to higher value sectors like banking and finance, service provision, mobile and digital technologies, communications and manufacturing.

Forging a new path requires commitment and action from all stakeholders but particularly from governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations who will play a key role in devising human-centred policies that benefit economies and people. Social dialogue is key to developing effective policy responses that can help shape the future of work to achieve the best possible outcome for societies rather than technology determining our futures. Skills development, social protection, social dialogue, equal opportunity, occupation safety and health and adequate labour market regulations are essential components of the policy response to shape a future of work with sustained and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.


On 15 January 2019, Resolution A/RES/73/282 decided to devote one day, during its seventythird session, to the commemoration, within existing resources, of the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the International Labour Organization under the theme “The future of work” and to convene a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly, to be held on 10 April 2019.


The overarching objective of the meeting is to share best practices, concrete solutions and ambitious recommendations for shaping the future of work with decent work for all.


UN Members States and Permanent Observers at highest political level, including Heads of State and Government and ministers UN System Principals and Multi-stakeholders including representatives from the private sector, workers’ organisations, employers’ organisations, youth representatives, academia and civil society


The high-level meeting will be structured with an opening session followed by a commemorative plenary in the General Assembly Hall from 10:00a.m.-1:00p.m. The Afternoon session will be comprised of two interactive panels from 3:00pm. – 6:00p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.