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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | Last updated: 13 Dec 2022

Changing nature of work

New generations entering the workforce and older generations working longer are changing employment, career models, and organisational structures.

timeline and images small_work
(© Photo by Viacheslav Lakobchuk on Adobe Stock)


A Megatrend is a long-term driving force that is observable now and will continue to have a global impact in years to come

The transformational forces of technology, globalisation and socio-economic uncertainties due to the multiple crises (pandemic, war, climate change) are all impacting work and employment. New generations entering the workforce, older generations working for longer, and the ‘baby-boomer’ generation retiring are collectively changing the landscape. Work is increasingly flexible and decentralised. At the same time a structural mismatch in some sectors is revealing an increasing skills shortage.

Automation and other technological advancements are creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and have the potential to further substitute for both routine and cognitive tasks, while at the same time increasing the need for new (technical) skills. The shift in occupational structures (e.g. the increasing gig economy) is leading to polarisation in employment, wages and inequalities. The employment landscape is evolving differently across the EU, with the divide across Member States remaining large. The types of jobs that are predicted to grow in the EU by 2030 are those that require higher education, social and digital skills. The reliance on labour tax to fund social protection will come into question, as the working population in the EU ages, automation increases and more flexible employment models gain ground.

From remote work policies to ‘virtual leadership’, the pandemic changed how we work. The opportunity to telework increased for some - such as knowledge workers - but not for frontline workers. Among the benefits are an improved work-life balance for some, as well as changed attitudes to well-being. Teleworking can lead to higher productivity and lower operating costs for companies (shrinking offices). However, there are risks for workers, such as increasing social isolation, burnout, the development of unhealthy habits and increasing inequalities, also regarding career progression. The European Green Deal aims to trigger a transformation of the way we live, work, and produce in the EU and society is increasingly driving sustainable forms of value creation. Generation Z (i.e. born from the late ‘90s onwards) have grown up immersed in technology and at a time of interconnected crises, and they will bring their own ideas to work.

This Megatrend is part of the Megatrends Hub



The driving forces of the Megatrend change over time. This timeline indicates more established and newer trends that are influencing the future direction of the Megatrend

Changing Nature of Work megatrend timeline diagram

They indicate a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society. 

Digital Transformation

The digital transformation/technological revolution is causing significant changes in the world of work. New technologies will reshape millions of jobs in the EU and some jobs are at risk of being lost to machines. Others are being transformed and new ones are being created. As a result, the skills needed are changing. Work through digital platforms affects working patterns and workers’ rights. This trend is reinforced by the main streaming of big data and AI optimisation of processes.

New organisation of work

The new information age calls for a reorganisation of work that suits the way people live in a networked society. This implies more agile projects conducted by the most skilled collaborators, regardless of their location, or by innovative small business entrepreneurs - all seizing the opportunity to be part of the green and digital transitions. 

Purpose driven work

The future of work is not only digital and green, but also purposeful. These three trends reinforce one another and contribute to creating a workplace where employees feel engaged and value their contribution towards a future that is in line with their values and attitudes, and supportive of their well-being.


Previously Covered Trends

These are trends that were spotted in the past, and might have grown or faded away in time.

-    Access to education and training
-    Fiscal strategies for new forms of work
-    Economics of the digital revolution

Future Snapshots

A future snapshot shows a plausible image of what might happen in the future in relation to this Megatrend. It is a creation built using knowledge and imagination. These snapshots presented here are excerpts of inspiring future-oriented reports written by other colleagues and organisations.

If humans were free - The self-actualization economy

"Governments did anticipate the impacts of artificial general intelligence, conducted extensive research on how to phase in universal basic income systems, and promoted self-employment. Artists, media moguls, and entertainers helped to foster cultural change from an employment culture to a self-actualization economy."

Other sketched scenarios are: It's complicated - A mixed bag, Political/Economic Turmoil - Future Despair

Work/Technology 2050. Scenarios and actions. Millennium Project (2019)

The red world - Innovation rules

"The world becomes a perfect world for innovation. Organisations and individuals race to give consumers what they want. Innovation outpaces regulation. Digital platforms give outsized reach and influence to those with a winning idea. Specialists and niche profitmakers flourish."

Other sketched scenarios are: Yellow world - Humans come first, Green world - Companies care, Blue world - Corporate is king

Workforce of the future. The competing forces shaping 2030. PWC (2017)

Magicians economy - scenario 3

"Magicians’ Economy: a world where work is stable, but employment relationships are multiple
IMAGINE: Global trade has further faded the borders of nations. Strong economic polarization leads to the strengthening of a global and connected elite, which guarantees free movement. Local responses to polarization differ considerably, however. States compete over big corporations’ investments and some of the states wither. The highest educated 5 percent of the population is responsible for 60 percent of the national value added, there is lots of unearned income and a large part of the population are net receivers of benefits."

Other sketched scenarios are: Honourable Toilers - scenario 1, Flexible Producers - scenario 2

Work 2040. Scenarios for the future of work. Demos Helsinki (2017)


Further Reading

Want to explore more? Some interesting readings below:

  • The Future of Work OECD
  • The Future of Jobs is Green - EC JRC EU science hub
  • The changing nature of work and skills in a digital age – EC JRC EU science hub
  • Building Partnerships on the future of work ILO
  • Startups OECD
  • Digital Skills Gap OECD

This Megatrends hub is a repository of foresight related information. It highlights long-term driving forces and its underlying shorter-term trends. This repository can help you understand the changing society in a broad and more systemic way. 

Disclaimer: this repository is by no means comprehensive and apart from established scientific knowledge contains also issues which are subject to scientific debate and where research is ongoing or only starting to give the reader some insights and ways to further explore the topics in more depth.