World Economy

Corporates Told to Improve Workers’ Conditions

Corporates Told to Improve Workers’ ConditionsCorporates Told to Improve Workers’ Conditions

The 2016 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum concluded on Saturday in the small city of Davos, Switzerland, in which several panels mostly focused on the main theme of ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and its implications on various aspects of our lives, addressed by world leaders and influential experts.


On the wave of rapid advances across technologies that are changing all aspects of life and work, the consensus among panelists was that corporations have to turn away from short-term thinking and take bold steps to improve workers’ conditions, promote diversity and take a wider stakeholder perspective.  

“The central question is whether technology can be harnessed for systems change,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. “Can we get to a zero-carbon, zero-poverty world? Not with current business models and approaches to public and private governance. We have a huge divide and our governments are struggling. Technology is not shared on an equitable basis, and in today’s world, greed is outstripping opportunity.”

Marc R. Benioff, CEO of Salesforce emphasized that the problem is a lack of leaders’ willing to recognize the challenges and make the necessary changes; “We are in a leadership crisis. We are seeing technological shifts and changes on a scale we have never seen on this planet”.

 Internet Fragmentation

During the past two years, troubling trends have emerged that could endanger the openness and consistency of the Internet, splintering it into a series of bordered cyberspace segments. There is no consensus about the nature, scope and potential impact of this Internet fragmentation, much less how the problem is best addressed.

In this respect, WEF published a white paper that maps the landscape of Internet fragmentation and cites 28 examples arising from technical, governmental and commercial trends. The report concludes that meeting the challenge of Internet fragmentation will require vigilance, analysis and international cooperation involving all relevant stakeholders.

 Research & Development

Ensuring that science can continue to address social challenges for the years ahead will require greater investments in basic research and better use of existing talent.

Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon University elaborated on this topic stating that in the past, corporate institutions provided long-term funding for fundamental research, which led to breakthroughs like the transistor, yet today “we don’t have industry supporting basic research to the extent that it used to”.

Moedas, EU commissioner for research, science and innovation, replied by saying that governments can play a significant role in enabling greater private support for basic sciences by lowering barriers in return for investing in science. Moreover, substantial improvement would be achieved through making better use of existing talent and promoting interdisciplinary research.

On a different note, it was explained that as the world surges into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a key challenge for individuals will be to understand and retain their very essence, their humanity, while understanding how they want to shape these technologies.

Robots and artificial intelligence will force people to hone human skills that were much more important generations ago in the days of very low tech such as empathy and respect.

 Gender Parity

Members of the WEF community released a call for action for the industry to close the gender gap within the sector. Endorsed by 22 leading companies and posted on the forum website, the declaration includes seven guiding principles for the group’s efforts to address the gender gap.