The Covid-19 pandemic has deeply affected economies and societies, raising inequalities both across and within countries (Martin et al., 2021). Global disruptions generated by the pandemic, as well as public health and economic policy responses, have induced and incentivised substantial changes in the nature of workplaces and structure of labour markets. Amongst others, hybrid remote work has substantially increased during the pandemic outbreak. According to current forecast, hybrid remote work could be applied to 20-25% of the workforce in advanced countries and 10% in emerging markets by 2030 (McKinsey, 2021). The new working patterns have important spatial implications, affecting urban and rural patterns, the demand for public transport, amenities and retail and the role of city centres. These shifts will increasingly impact on work, industries and places with significant repercussions on society, culture, and people’s everyday lives in cities and regions. Crucially, this is occurring at a time of deep structural transformations driven by several challenges, including: i) climate change and the need to define a new socio-economic model of sustainable development; and ii) a manufacturing revolution defined by the digital transformation of Industry 4.0, which has given rise to new industries while disrupting many existing sectors (De Propris and Bellandi, 2021).
In this context, new skills and knowledge, new working spaces and new types of hybrid working modes (remote and face-to-face) are needed to perform both jobs of the future and existing ones, whose nature has changed. At the regional level, new models of organisations, governance, education programmes and policies favouring place-based sustainable growth paths are required. This will enable territories to embrace the multiple challenges that they face due to the pandemic, along with the deep structural transformations linked to the ecological and digital transitions.
The aim of this special issue is to foster and integrate scholarly contributions exploring changes in the spatial distribution of workplaces along with the transformation in the structure and features of local and regional labour markets. We seek studies from which implications on local dynamics, regional policy and practice could be drawn out in order to help territories “build forward better” (Martin, 2021). Contributions will help to understand how workers, firms and places can sustainably adapt and thrive in the post-Covid-19 socio-economic environment. In particular, this special issue will collect conceptual and empirical work to advance the debate on:
i) New workplace practices (hybrid, face-to-face and full remote working), spaces (including, but not limited to, third spaces like coworking spaces, FabLabs), their locations and the implications for the socio-economic development of these spaces. How territories, both urban and peripheral areas, can benefit from new working patterns and attract/retain talents to foster their long-term resilience. How cities and rural areas can (re)build by appealing to the “both generation”, workers who have adopted the binary life model to split their lives and work in cities and in rural areas.
ii) How “good” jobs, namely jobs that allow a decent wage and living conditions (against the precarity that maintains a share of the labour force in poverty) can be developed at a regional level, or in a multilevel governance framework;
iii) How place-based education systems can foster the transition toward sustainable growth paths, while hindering regional divergence. Indeed, both green and digital transitions call for the development of new skills requiring innovative teaching methods (such as, experiential learning and challenge-based education) based on concrete projects and field studies that are primarily implemented in the local and regional areas (UNESCO, 2021). How this can be realised and what the impact will be on regional ecosystems requires novel perspectives and analysis.
Topics might include but are not limited to the following:
1. Remote working, geography of workplaces and regional resilience
• Studies investigating changes in the geography of work, during the pandemic and post-pandemic scenarios.
• Research on how remote working can attract and retain talents in peripheral areas for place-based sustainable growth paths.
• Studies on new models of working and their spatial impact(s), for example, on office space, public transport, local services and infrastructure.
• Remote working and new models of cities, communities, organisation and governance.
• New working spaces to enhance innovation in hybrid (remote and face-to-face) working modes. If and how do hybrid working modes affect high street/urban activity? Do they represent an opportunity to re-structure urban centres?
2. Labour market and regional dynamics
• Research on new forms of division of labour and regional imbalances (Sobyra et al., 2021; Sevinc et al., 2020).
• Speed of change in the adoption of new forms of work and their impact on regional labour markets and opportunities for place renewal.
• Studies on how people, cities, peripheral areas, regions can overturn the job loss and adapt to structural changes due to the pandemic.
3. Qualities of the regional labour market and education
• Research on regional, urban- and territory-oriented policy to foster good jobs for all levels of skills. Works on how to create jobs in a better environment with quality occupations.
• Precarious labour contracts are incompatible with the need to develop new regional skills and competencies in the double transition (digital and green). How could this be resolved?
• Effects of place-based policies on good jobs in Covid-19 times.
• Research on the development of a sustainable, inclusive skill set (with particular emphasis on digital skills and skill mix) in light of the pandemic, along with the ecological transition and the fourth industrial revolution.
• Research on education and training programmes to enhance job opportunities for workers of all ages, especially the young ones and in the regions that have been affected the most during the pandemic.
• Place-based education systems (namely education systems and skills policies adapted to territorial specificities) and transition to sustainable growth paths in the post-pandemic scenario.
An extended abstract of no more than 500 words should be submitted to Mariachiara Barzotto at firstname.lastname@example.org with all other guest editors in copy by October 14, 2022. Authors should include the paper title, contributors’ details, the abstract, and three keywords. Please indicate “Regional Studies Special Issue Submission”, in the subject of the email and enclose the abstract as an attachment to the email.
The guest editors also intend to host a one-day workshop (either online or at the University of Bath) in February 2023, where papers under consideration for the special issue can be presented and discussed. In this regard, participation in the workshop allows authors to attain initial feedback on the paper before submission. Details of the workshop will be available from Sandrine Labory, Mariachiara Barzotto and Carlo Corradini.
If successful, authors will be invited to submit the full paper through the journal’s online submission system by April 21, 2023. All submissions will be subject to the journal’s usual peer review process.