The labour market is not tender to the youngest and oldest. On the one end of the spectrum, the 16- to 25-year-olds struggle, on the other end, the 50- to 65-year-olds do too. In May 2019, the Federal Council in Switzerland proposed measures to assist these particular populations, conscious that with the ageing of the Swiss population, there will be a severe lack of qualified professionals in Switzerland within the next fifteen years.

Recognising that people over 50 have valuable qualifications and, at the same time, great difficulty finding work again if laid off, the Federal Council has proposed access to vocational assessment and guidance and cost-free career advice for people aged 40 or older. The Federal Council furthermore stated that training and lifelong learning should be more easily validated and that over people over 60 should have easier access to training and employment measures. Furthermore from 2020 to 2022, CHF 62.5 million will be allocated annually in the unemployment office (ORP/RAV) stimulus programme for the elderly unemployed.

The Structure of Work is Changing

According to the WEF, “businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, with many respondents highlighting their intention to engage workers in a more flexible manner, utilizing remote staffing beyond physical offices and decentralization of operations.“ Furthermore, there will be severe workforce transformations, which become apparent in “1) large-scale decline in some roles as tasks within these roles become automated or redundant, and 2) large-scale growth in new products and services—and associated new tasks and jobs— generated by the adoption of new technologies and other socio-economic developments.”

“Already, up to 162 million people in Europe and the United States — or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population — engage in some form of independent work.” Indeed, McKinsey qualifies four groups of independent workers: “free agents, who actively choose independent work and derive their primary income from it; casual earners, who use independent work for supplemental income and do so by choice; reluctants, who make their primary living from independent work but would prefer traditional jobs; and the financially strapped, who do supplemental independent work out of necessity.” Redundancy and the reluctance to permanently hire older workers in Switzerland may be contributing to the rise of independent workers, so older workers need to have the skill sets to set up shop as independents.

Keeping Up by Keeping Up

According to WEF, “The extent to which the working population — both today’s and tomorrow’s — acquires the right skills to carry out the tasks required of them in the workplace is one of the most impactful and uncertain variables for the future of work.” Within this context, lifelong learning becomes an imperative for survival in an increasingly digitalised and fast-moving technological world.

The Institute for the Future, states baldly: “To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these. Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.”

Everyone needs to pull in the same direction: The Federal Council’s measures are a beginning, but only if we make use of them. When are you signing up to your next training course?