Managing organizations for regional research networks to foster an inclusive and sustainable future of work

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Call for proposals: Managing organizations for regional research networks to foster an inclusive and sustainable future of work

FutureWORKS: Skills for a Sustainable and Inclusive Future of Work  

Launch date: May 1st, 2023 

Full proposals to lead a regional research network, including a draft call for proposals outline, must be received no later than June 26th, 2023, at 11pm Eastern Standard Time or EST. 

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is pleased to announce a call for full proposals as part of the FutureWORKs initiative, for the selection of regional research hubs intended to develop and lead a regional research network to advance skills and policies for an inclusive and sustainable future of work. 

About IDRC, the Program Divisions, and the Focus Area 

IDRC is a Crown corporation created in 1970 by the Parliament of Canada. IDRC supports and strengthens the capacity of people and institutions in developing countries to undertake the research that they identify as most urgent. It works with researchers and research users as they confront contemporary challenges within their own countries and contributes to global advances in their fields. 

The Centre’s 10-year strategy, Strategy 2030, affirms IDRC’s vision for a more sustainable and inclusive world, and commits the Centre to the following mission: IDRC will be a leader in research for development, investing in high-quality research and innovation, sharing knowledge for greater uptake and use, and mobilizing alliances for more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive societies. (Please refer to IDRC’s Strategy 2030 for more information.) 

In the context of this strategy, we identified the following five programs that will shape IDRC’s work over the next decade – making knowledge a tool for improving lives across the developing world: 

  • Climate-Resilient Food Systems 
  • Democratic and Inclusive Governance 
  • Education and Science  
  • Global Health  
  • Sustainable Inclusive Economies 

Gender equality and inclusion are central to all our programs.  

This call is a joint initiative of the Education and Science and the Sustainable Inclusive Economies programs. It seeks to leverage past IDRC investments on challenges in the Future of Work, Women’s Economic Empowerment and skills development to create a multi-regional initiative supporting innovation research to advance skills for the future of work and promote decent work. 

Overview of the call 

Background and rationale 

Fostering inclusive and sustainable development and managing the future of work (FOW) are more interdependent today than ever before. Eighty-five percent of the world’s working-age population lives in the Global South and over the next few decades, this share will increase, compounding the urgency to create new and more quality jobs and develop adequate skills, while addressing climate change. 

From demographic trends to technological advancement/disruption and climate change, major forces were already upending the world of work before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The pandemic further accelerated digitalization, new ways of working, the gig economy and automation. Adding to these changes is the reality of climate change and transitions to low-carbon economies, which will change economic structures in yet unknown ways. 

These drivers may further worsen labour market participation and outcomes, disproportionately impacting marginalized women and young people. There are demands from job-seekers to those seeking better employment and those in government keen to harness their power to produce positive employment outcomes through skills development, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and lifelong learning.  Unfortunately, many low-income countries remain ill prepared to take full advantage of some of the opportunities that accompany these challenges.  

The impact of climate change, the transition to low carbon economies, and technological change through digitalization on the future of work will differ across regions depending on conditions such as the size and prevalence of the informal economy, demographic trends, productivity levels of different sectors, quality and nature of existing jobs, and trends in international trade. Once again, how these changes affect the future of work will depend on the strategies and policies that countries design to benefit from these transitions, mitigate their adverse effects, and share benefits inclusively and fairly among the whole population.  

Beyond quantity, the quality of existing jobs is important. Globally, the ILO estimates that more than 60% of the world’s working-age population work informally, and this share is even higher in lower-income economies. Women and young people are more likely to be in informal, low-quality jobs that are poorly paid, precarious and do not provide access to social protection systems.  Current drivers of economic transformation such as AI and climate change can intensify and deepen these inequalities, creating winners and losers. Without deliberate effort and policy intervention to guide the transitions and mitigate the impacts, many women and young people will likely see already precarious employment worsen. Equipping workers with skills that are not only appropriate for growing and relevant sectors but also, for lifelong learning and adaptability, may expand the options of labour market entrants. In tandem, strengthening social protection systems will support displaced workers and allow them to retrain with relevant skills to help guide a worker-centric transition. 

Skills development and training systems have long emphasized the school to work transition and ensuring readiness among labour market entrants for the jobs available. While consultation across government and with the private sector is an important component, there is often a disconnect between real or future-oriented needs and the current skilling system priorities. Policies designed to meet emissions targets or to improve competitiveness in specific supply chains, for example, are often done in isolation from existing education and skilling infrastructure. The potential for transformation that comes with advanced technologies and digitalization and the pressures to eliminate carbon emissions intensify the need to create skilling systems that are responsive and not merely reactive to change, and that prepare workers for economic mobility, instead of specific occupations or tasks. Equally, there is a need to support more responsive social protection systems that take these changes into account in order to foster quality jobs and to mitigate adverse impacts on those whose jobs are changing or are no longer there. 

Key questions to address through implementation research include how advanced digital technologies, like generative AI, and the transition to low-carbon economies impact employment, what are the skills and policies needed to foster resilient and quality jobs, particularly for women and youth, and what is the role of formal and informal educational programs and labour market institutions to aid this process. 

Learn more!

Event | 2 May 2023