INRS participated in a conference session: The World of Work Tomorrow

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INRS participated in a conference session organized by Santé publique France on the 26 May 2021 entitled “The world of work of tomorrow: what are the challenges and prospects for prevention?”

Aim of session
In France, the world of work has undergone profound changes over the last thirty years and is still undergoing constant mutation. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated these changes. The session aims to provide an overview of the health benefits and risks associated with these changes. It will use a multidisciplinary approach (economic, sociological, epidemiological, safety and prevention, etc.) and will be based on illustrations, current data and data collection systems, useful for tomorrow’s prevention.

Mélina le Barbier, Deputy Director, Health Environment and Work Directorate, Santé publique France.
Louis Laurent, Director of Studies and Research, INRS.

COVID-19: Implications for employment and working life in Europe
John Hurley, Research Director, Eurofound

Effects of the pandemic on working conditions
Catherine Delgoulet, Ergonomist, CNAM

Consequences of the use of new technologies on health and safety at work, the COVID-19 as an accelerator
Michel Héry & Marc Malenfer, INRS project managers

Tomorrow’s work: will inequalities in working conditions be amplified?
Thomas Coutrot, Director of the Working Conditions and Health Department, DARES

Towards a new philosophy of the work relationship
Pascal Lokiec, University of Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne

Link to replay (In French) and download

More information


Melina Le Barbier (SpF) and Louis Laurent (INRS)

In France, the world of work has undergone profound changes over the last thirty years and is still undergoing constant mutations. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated these changes. The aim of this session was to provide an overview of the impact of the pandemic and changes it may induce in the post pandemic world, based on a multidisciplinary approach (economics, sociology, law, safety and prevention, etc.). The main conclusions were:

  • John Hurley (Eurofound) discussed the impact of the pandemics in Europe. It had a moderate impact on the unemployment rate thanks to the measures taken by the governments. Nevertheless, the number of worked hours fell down by about 15%. The main cause of this drop was workers still employed but staying at home (one in six workers). The impact varied strongly between activity sectors and consequently workers category, the female low-income workers being the most impacted.  The use of telework rose from 5% before the pandemics to 34 %.  This evolution is likely to have a strong impact in future, since one estimate that 37 % of activity in European Union is considered to be  “teleworkable”.
  • Catherine Delgoulet (CNAM) and Thomas Coutrot (Dares, French ministry of labor) discussed the impact of the pandemics on workers. It appears that impacts varied strongly, depending on the qualification of the workers, the activity sector (from “first line workers” in healthcare sector, “second line workers” such as in retail sector, logistics, and workers in sector with decreasing activity) from positive to strongly negative with strongly enhanced psychosocial risks. Also a significant number of workers were only weakly affected by the pandemics. Various factors were considered: work intensification, feeling of meaningfulness, support from colleagues, compatibility of telework with family life, management behavior, etc. The consequence of the pandemics depend on workers: for some, negative impact led to a sense of disengagement from work, while others got an enhanced feeling of their usefulness in society and found renewed interest in their activity. This raised different questions such as :
    • There are different views about the impact of the pandemics on social inequalities with contradictory signals. For instance, meaningfulness of jobs with low qualification but on the other hand white collars had an easier access to telework.
    • What means “teleworkable”. Even if a given task is “teleworkable”, this could not be the case for jobs because other factors have to be taken into account: support of colleagues, informal but strategic discussions, collective creativity. These factors could play an important role in future to set the balance between telework and work at office.
  • Michel Hery and Marc Malenfer (INRS) discussed emerging trends and their possible impact on future world.
    • The rise of robotics and cobotics in company with various impact on the jobs depending of companies from intensification and enhanced claim ratio to improvement.
    • New phenomena strongly affect some jobs. The example of “fast fashion” has been discussed: Retailers only possess an account on social networks were influencer advertise hundreds of new models every week. Design, fabrication are outsourced in external factories were working conditions may be poor. 
    • Pandemics strongly affected telework. An additional factor may be the rise of software designed to organize ephemeral project teams with workers disseminated around the world.

They also presented a foresight exercise to define new challenge in the domain of occupational safety and health. Among the key points, the impact of information and communication technologies, modes of organization and prescription of work, employment status: self-employed workers and social protection, work collectives to build prevention, multiplication of interfaces, as risk areas.

  • Pascal Lokiec (Paris 1,  Pantheon-Sorbonne University) discussed four future challenges for labour legislation :
    • Autonomy and control. The labour law is built around the concept of subordination relationship. This was a straightforward concept in the past when most of the jobs were in factories. Now there are more and more “autonomous jobs” where workers are highly skilled or are working remotely. One of the challenge for lawmakers is to evolve this concept of subordination to the concept of control of the work. Nevertheless, the traditional subordination relationship will last for many workers.
    • Which workers to protect? The question of independent workers is still at stake. For instance, what is the perimeter to be considered ? Indeed the definition of independent worker varies between countries. In France the choice has been made to concentrate on mobility workers  (deliverers, chauffeur driven cars)
    • Health and employer’s accountability. The pandemics raised new questions :
      • COVID 19 and accountability. The employer is not responsible of the pandemic but must comply to the rules enacted by the government to combat contagion
      • The employer is also accountable of the health and safety of his employees even when they are at home. In practice, this rule is not easy to implement in the case of telework.
    • Evolution of laws. There is a trend to evolve from labour law to more “local norms”. In France, the pandemic gave a good example. The employer’s obligations where described in sanitary protocols and FAQ in the minister site which are not equivalent to laws. 

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