On March 2, 2022, the Center for International Development (CID) hosted a virtual panel discussion on how to shape the future of work. This was the fifth monthly panel event on CID’s moving Beyond COVID initiative, with each month representing different key dimensions of COVID response and recovery.

The event featured Guy Ryder, the Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO); Gordon H. Hansen, Peter Wertheim Professor of Urban Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and Ashley V. Whillans, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. The discussion was moderated by CID Director, Asim Khwaja. 

Each panelist presented unique “dark clouds” and silver linings to the primary discussion on the implications of COVID on the global workforce and how we envision the future of work as we move beyond COVID. Mr. Ryder voiced concerns about the divergence between rich and poor economies and the unequal trajectory of recovery due to unequal access to fiscal resources, and vaccination which have enormous implications the world of work. He highlighted the need for institutional level changes to negotiate both monetary as well as non-monetary conditions for the high-skilled and low-skilled workforce worldwide. Professor Whillans, drawing from her research in Kenya and India, underlined time poverty as a pressing concern especially for working women during COVID because a disproportionate share of household responsibilities falls on them. She also highlighted meaning, purpose, and time affluence as top drivers of employee engagement at work and called for providing flexibility in a way that’s equitable for all workers in the organizations. Professor Hansen, among other things, highlighted the need for rethinking the global supply chain and reskilling the global labor force in the changing landscape of work. Given robust growth in entrepreneurship during COVID, Professor Hansen emphasized sectoral and active labor market trainings to help disadvantaged workers pivot to more productive and new lines of work as well as technical assistance to SMEs to upgrade operations.

A common thread in the panel discussion was the evident move towards dematerialization of the workplace and how we adapt to it: the institutions needed to negotiate equitable working conditions for all, provision of safety net in this new and increasingly atomized world of work, and ways to foster employer-employee relationships and work engagement. For more expert insights, listen to CID’s Beyond COVID podcast and catch up on the Beyond COVID panel discussions.


CID Student Ambassador Author:

Liza Maharjan, a first year MPA/ID candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.