From the debt crisis in Greece to Brexit, things uncertain in the Europe — and the future of workforce flexibility and the European Union remain difficult to predict. But how do you get your job done at the same time? Last week’s CWS Summit in Berlin explored different strategies.

“What really resonated was that in Europe, it’s no secret that we are entering a period of unparalleled uncertainty,” said Bryan Peña, senior VP of contingent workforce strategies at Staffing Industry Analysts. “The strategies and tactics that have been successful in the past may not work in the uncertain future. The [CWS Summit Europe] is an example of contingent workforce managers’ willingness to question the status quo and innovate.”

The uncertainty and divided political opinions were highlighted in a panel with Jens Spahn, parliamentary state secretary of the Ministry of Finance in Germany, and Yanis Varoufakis, former minister of finance for Greece and a professor of Economics at the University of Athens.

Brexit. When it comes to Brexit, divorce proceedings must begin between the UK and EU in a moderate manner, Spahn said during a panel discussion. He emphasized that the UK must first agree its final financial obligations to the EU, a message repeated later that day in parliament by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Beyond economics. Spahn also told contingent workforce managers at the conference that cultural issues, including integration, must be considered — not just economics. While he acknowledged that Germany needed immigration to sustain its economy, he highlighted the cultural differences between workers from other parts of Europe and workers from the ‘Near East’ (as Germany refers to the Middle East).

Fellow panelist Varoufakis had different ideas. The EU is more interested in defending its turf and rules than solving the problems of the Eurozone, he said. He also argued the Brexit would not have happened if there had been a better resolution to the Greek crisis. Varoufakis claimed that Europe continues to be in denial and that the Eurozone’s architecture is seriously flawed without closer banking integration.

Gig economy. In discussing the gig economy, Spahn commented that it was something that needed to be both encouraged and controlled. Varoufakis expressed concerns that workers were being forced into gig work though had fewer issues where the workers themselves had chosen to work on a flexible basis.

John Nurthen, executive director of global research at Staffing Industry Analysts, who moderated the discussion between Spahn and Varoufakis commented, “Both our keynote speakers support the EU and both had hoped that the UK would remain part of it, however, their visions for the future of the EU could not be more different — which resulted in a combative and highly entertaining debate. Spahn envisages a Europe where countries succeed by sticking to the rules while Varoufakis wants to see the introduction of fundamental democratic and financial reform.”

Peña focused not just on the uncertainty in his keynote speech at the Summit,  but explored various options that revealed the advantages of not limiting how you engage a flexible workforce.

One change in the workforce is the aging population. In 1950, there were 11.75 working people to every person aged 65 or older. However, by 2050, it’s estimated there will be just 3.9 working people to every person aged 65 or older.

Artificial intelligence will also change how the ecosystem operates. Applicant tracking systems and vendor management systems will look radically different, Peña said. The employee and customer experience will also be more highly customized.

Another noteworthy trend is more companies using more contingent workers, he said. In 2016, the average percentage of contingent workers at large companies was 22%. That is up from 12% in 2009.