Business leaders at Davos urged to create jobs to ensure stability across Europe

World Economic Forum hears calls for inclusive roles but disruptive AI and fallout from Covid-19 present challenges

French President Emmanuel Macron urged chief executives to create jobs to strengthen society. AFP
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Political and economic issues, from the Gaza war to global monetary policy, continued to dominate the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

However, one theme that is central to political, economic and cultural developments worldwide is one of inclusion.

Ensuring people have jobs, and therefore economic and social inclusion, is not a new topic, but one that is facing fresh challenges, including the introduction of AI and recovering from the fallout of Covid-19.

Maximising growth and opportunities, increasing productivity and adopting AI are all elements under discussion. Addressing the Forum, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed stability relies on jobs.

“If we want stability … help us give Europe’s middle class hope. We need good, well-paid jobs,” he said, reminding the fully attended session on Wednesday evening: “It is not just a problem for political leaders but for business leaders too.”

Mr Macron urged business leaders to help create jobs, especially in sustainable sectors “to allow people to embrace the transformations” across industries, especially with digitisation and sustainability becoming greater factors.

Executives are not only thinking about job creation but also about how to organise their workforces - and ensure diversity and inclusion in those workforces.

In a session entitled ‘Diversity in Practice’, Lorenzo Simonelli, chief executive, president and chairman of energy technology company Baker Hughes, said diversity in a team is profitable but must be ensured in supply lines.

Anne-Laure Malauzat, a partner with Bain & Company and regional chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said that a recent study showed that inclusion matters for everyone.

“No more than 35 per cent of any demographic group of employees said they feel fully included at work,” she said, quoting the report.

That lack of inclusion - in work and often consequently in society - can lead to major instability and political disruption. The connection between the two, particularly in Europe and the rise of the far right, has been a point of discussion in several sessions and closed-door discussions.

Another challenge executives are dealing with is how employees can express views on political issues, including on Palestine and Israel while remaining true to their organisation’s values and mission.

In a closed-door event, one American participant told chief executives: “Remember, companies are not democracies, put limits where needed while listening to your teams.”

Updated: January 18, 2024, 6:11 AM