How The Pandemic Has Accelerated The Future Of Work

The way we work has been changing, and the pandemic has accelerated those changes. Where we work, how we work and the meaning we find in what we do all need to adapt to changes in our society and technology.

a man standing in front of a sign: A man enters a restaurant displaying a help wanted sign on Toronto’s Bloor Street West on June 9, 2021. © Provided by National Post A man enters a restaurant displaying a help wanted sign on Toronto’s Bloor Street West on June 9, 2021.

Old models and thinking on both sides of the ideological divide no longer quite fit. Some on the left believe that government should do it all. Some on the right believe that government should do nothing. I believe that government should give people a hand up and spread opportunity more widely and fairly.

We need to help everyone take part in the new opportunities that are being created every day, especially those who have been hit the hardest. Training needs to be available and accessible.

Work is a foundational value of society and must be protected and rewarded. Our future of work needs to be an abundance of good-paying jobs that enable people to support their families and their communities.

Now is the time to ask ourselves, if work has changed, what changes do we have to make to help Ontario workers remain competitive? How do we continue to develop, attract and retain the best talent to keep up with a growing digital economy and those beyond our borders? And how can we ensure that every worker has equal access to dignity and opportunity? Workers and their families are depending on us to quickly adapt by looking at new policy and training approaches. We need to ensure our labour and employment laws continue to protect workers in this changed landscape, while supporting business growth and new technology that create more jobs.

This is why I established the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee to explore the future of work. This seven-member team of experts will hear from workers and businesses from all corners of our province, including leading labour academics, organized labour groups, worker advocacy organizations and technology platform companies to examine the impacts of the pandemic on the world of work. I’ve asked these experts to focus on three things.

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The first is how we can use our training programs to immediately help workers join our recovery. This will include focusing our supports on high-growth and emerging industries that enable workers to advance within and between sectors more quickly. We need to lift people’s incomes, not just go back to where we were.

The second is how we ensure our labour and employment policies reflect the rise of knowledge and technology sectors in a world where work is increasingly global and remote. Innovation and growth in these industries must put workers and their families first.

Finally, the committee will look at ways to protect and support those whose work depends on digital platforms such as those delivering food, helping people get from place to place, and more. We’ve seen over the past year how vital these workers are and I will always stand behind them.

Previously, we sought to find balance between our work lives and our personal lives. But these neat boundaries between two separate lives no longer exist. That’s why we must examine how much flexibility makes sense and how to celebrate workers who invest time in making their families stronger.

We must act now so Ontario continues to be the best place in North America to work, and to recruit, retain and reward workers.

I look forward to receiving the committee’s recommendations later this summer so that we can move fast and keep our province on the right path.

There’s a lot to learn from this pandemic and the way Ontario workers and businesses pulled together in response. With the right actions, we can help hard-working men and women prepare for lifelong careers that their families — and our communities — can depend on.

Monte McNaughton is Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, with responsibility for immigration policies and programs. 

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