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At debate in Davos: Investing in social jobs and integrating refugees into the labour market

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Published: 31 May 2022

Investment in social jobs is critical for economic success, according to reports published during last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos. The importance of integrating refugees in local job markets was also at debate

Jesper Brodin, Ingka Group (IKEA), Netherlands, speaking in the Integrating Refugees into Labour Markets session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos | Photo by World Economic Forum/Mattias Nutt

In brief

  • One unit of investment in social jobs could generate returns for the wider economy of 2.3 times that amount

  • Refugees should be seen as a boon for the workplace, argues IKEA boss

  • New Jobs Consortium aims to provide platform for politicians and executives to collaborate on creating higher quality jobs

Every dollar of investment in social jobs would generate a multiplier effect of 2.3 times the initial investment, according to research published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) last week.

Investing in education, health and care jobs can produce a trio of benefits by boosting economic activity, expanding employment opportunities and generating social mobility,  the report found.

It cites modelling of the US economy which suggests that investing $1.3trn in the social jobs of tomorrow could unlock $3.1trn in GDP returns, and create 10m additional jobs in the social sector and a further 1m jobs in other sectors by 2030. 

The report – Jobs of Tomorrow: The Triple Returns of Social Jobs in the Economic Recovery – was produced by the WEF’s Centre for the New Economy and Society (CNES), in collaboration with Accenture.  

Associated increases in productivity, increased GDP and tighter labour markets will lead to an increase in real wages. Investing in social jobs, aided by technology and better skills, has the potential to lift living standards globally, the authors argue.  

“After more than two years of turmoil in the global economy and a continued uncertain outlook, leaders need to support workers in pivoting towards a future which works for everyone. Higher wage, higher-quality, future-ready jobs are possible and benefit companies, workers and economies alike,” the authors say. 

This report was one of a series of publications and initiatives introduced or highlighted at Davos exploring ways to produce more inclusive and fairer jobs markets in the future. 

Another report, The Good Work Framework, identifies five key issues to be addressed to ensure better work conditions: volatility in wages and the cost of living; divergence on the demand for flexibility; a “silent pandemic” in personal well-being; an erosion of diversity, equity and inclusion gains; and the need for a reskilling revolution. 

The report draws on the views of employers, unions and other experts to suggest solutions to some of these issues, including, among others, promoting social justice and fostering employability and learning culture. This report was also produced by the WEF’s CNES, this time in collaboration with consulting firm Mercer. 

Tapping the talents of refugees 

The need to enable refugees to integrate more easily into local jobs markets and society more widely has spurred the creation of a Refugee Employment and Employability Initiative, backed by 140 organisations within the WEF’s chief human resources Officers community. 

Minds have been focused by the movement of over 6 million refugees out of Ukraine, mainly to the rest of Europe, since February 2022. The initiative will initially support learning and job opportunities for Ukrainian refugees in Europe and then draw best practices to build a methodology for supporting system-wide global support from employers for refugees. 

Jesper Brodin, CEO of IKEA’s parent the Ingka Group, told delegates at the Davos summit that refugees should be regarded as part of the solution for workforce shortages rather than the problem.    

“We talk about talent being one of the greatest shortages and issues right now. So why wouldn’t you see this as a great opportunity,” he said during a panel discussion on integrating refugee labour. 

Ingka launched a scheme to bring refugees into the workforce when the war in Syria sparked a wave of refugees out of that country. It has committed to supporting 2,500 refugees by the end of 2023 by improving their skills to gain employment inside or outside of its business, including language skills, via three to six months of training. 

Data from the scheme so far indicated that retention rates for refugee employees could be better for an employer than within the wider workforce, if a systematic approach was applied to employing refugees. “It’s definitely something that is possible, and we showed that with the numbers”, he said. At Davos, Ingka announced a “toolkit” to provide a best practice guide for other companies seeking to employ refugees.      

Platform for jobs development 

In support of its jobs agenda, the WEF has launched a Jobs Consortium, which held it first meeting at Davos. The group includes CEOs and ministers promoting jobs growth, new workplace standards and improved wages, with a focus on social, green and tech jobs. 

According to the WEF, the initiative is supported by insight products, action frameworks and a collaboration platform, which develop expert knowledge to drive tangible change, and will work closely with initiatives on developing skills for the global workforce. 

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