Smart Working and Gender Gap: Two Big Challenges of the Future of the World

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by Dr Valerio Mancini (Rome Business School)

The world is changing at the speed of light. Digitization, globalization and demographic changes are having a deep impact on our life, our cultures and our societies.

These and other macro-trends are rapidly transforming the way we interact with our friends and families, the way we run our businesses, the goods and services we use and, overall, our daily lives. Our education and health, the distribution of income and wealth, the new professions and the way we work are all particularly sensitive to these changes. We live in an era of transformation and flexibility and multitasking represents without doubt the new “normal”.

As with all types of revolutions, it brings in many opportunities and challenge.

Multilateral cooperation, international and regional integration as well as the complex global independence developed in recent decades have multiplied these opportunities. New technologies have radically changed the scenario and now are an integral part of our daily lives. More and more people are connecting with devices to the web, while artificial intelligence is entering the scene in not too much of a silent manner.

Blockchain and other technologies are becoming increasingly popular and commonly used words. This is improving our ability to promote higher productivity growth rates, improved services, as well as the entrance of new business models and innovative ways of working, offering greater flexibility to employers and workers. But there are also very demanding challenges, especially concerning the future of work.

“Medium level” jobs are increasingly exposed to this deep transformation and 14% of existing jobs could disappear in the next 15-20 years due to automation processes while a further n32% could radically change as individual tasks are automated.

Many people and communities have fallen behind and have not been able, or in most cases, have not been able to seize the opportunities offered by globalization, highlighting the enormous persistent digital gap in accessing new technologies which is generating considerable and increasing gen

Furthermore, as evidenced in Davos during the World Economic Forum of 21-24 January 2020, the gender issue continues to be the negative aspect and at the same time the central point on which governments will have to focus to set up the next labor reforms, starting perhaps from the reduction of the so-called gender pay gap.  Where for the same job and level of training we still see lower salaries for female compared to men colleagues increasing socio-economic inequalities.

In this apparently complex context, we focused our attention on people, on well-being and on how this gender gap can slow down economic progress.

In this digital era and new scenario characterized by an increasing request for flexibility, people need to feel supported in the search for new and better opportunities.

The pace and speed of this change requires prompt and decisive political action, inspired by a new growth model, more inclusive and more sustainable. A model based on total dedication to work negatively affects the quality of employment due to very stressful rhythms that particularly penalizes women. In this regard, we have analyzed the case of Italy, which occupies the last places among industrialized countries for the quality of its employment mainly due to a delay in the introduction of smart working in addition to the absence of work stability.

As far as the implications of a work model based on number of office hours penalizes the inclusion of women especially in managerial roles, therefore placing the “belpaese” among the last positions in terms of employment rate and consequently on birh rate. 

Italy is, in fact, the second EU country with the greatest reduction in birth rate between 2013 and 2017 (-10.9%), after Finland (-13.4%) and has a very low fertility rate (1.29) with the highest average age of mothers fathers with first child (respectively 31.99 and 35.49 years). If we analyze this factor at the regional level, we also notice here an important gap between North and South / Islands, with the province of Nuoro reaching the average age of first child for men at 36, 75 years old.  Therefore, finding the right balance between work and daily life is a challenge employer should embrace as it directly influences family lives. The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life becomes essential for the well-being of each family member.

Governments can help solve this problem by encouraging professional solidarity and flexible working practices which aim at providing a better work life balance placing inequalities at the center of the political-social debate

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