Advancing a New Social Contract
The Davos Agenda 2021 also dived into the issue of how best to reform our existing social contract, given that close to 1.6 billion of the most vulnerable workers have lost their capacity to earn a decent living, and many of our social safety nets are not fit for purpose.
The panel on the new social contract was joined, among others, by the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who listed his government’s latest initiatives in tackling unemployment and youth unemployment in particular. At the beginning of the pandemic, Spain quickly set up short-time work and furlough schemes, which have helped 750,000 of those under the age of 20, for instance. Spain has also enacted a minimum income and law on teleworking to provide flexibility to both companies and workers. These initiatives have invested in jobs, reforms of the labour market to increase productivity, and upskilling and reskilling workers to help them transition into the digital and green economy.
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, emphasized that fixing the existing gaps in social protection will help our societies become more resilient in the face of future pandemics. Social security, however, should not be limited to wealthy countries alone. “We are interlinked and interdependent,” he added. James Quincey, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Coca-Cola company, explained that big corporations play an important role in delivering a lasting change. Not only can they create an inclusive workforce themselves, but they can also use their ecosystem to help drive the change through their suppliers.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, spoke of the need to create a global social floor that would protect the most vulnerable and which could be achieved through the so-called Global Social Protection Fund. Explaining that the labour market is not a zero-sum game, Jo Ann Jenkins, Chief Executive Officer at AARP, said we needed a multigenerational workforce. It is not a question of either/or: companies benefit from both young and older workers, and 83% of businesses agree that more age-diverse workplaces bring greater value.