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October 2016

Digitization is unlikely to destroy jobs, but may increase inequalities

Melanie Arntz's picture
The authors, guest bloggers, work in the Labour Markets, Human Resources and Social Policy Research Department at the Mannheim Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW).
The estimated share of ‘jobs at risk’ must not be equated with actual or expected employment losses from technological advances. Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank.

In recent years, there has been a revival of public concerns that automation and digitization might result in a jobless future. This debate has been particularly fueled by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, who argue that 47% of jobs in the US are ‘at risk of computerization.' 

These alarming figures spurred a series of studies that find similarly high shares of workers at risk of automation for other European countries. By focusing on the level of occupations, these studies typically neglect the fact that occupations involve bundles of tasks, many of which are hard to automate. As a result, these studies potentially overestimate the share of workers at risk of automation.

Improve workforce development systems in 5 (not so simple) steps

Viviana Roseth's picture
Nurses listen during a training program to learn more about child and adolescent mental health in Monrovia, Liberia


In the last decade, policy attention to better develop the knowledge and skills of the workforce has increased for several reasons. First, global youth unemployment rates, three times higher than the unemployment rate for those over 25 years old, have raised concerns about social stability as well as sustained and long-term economic growth. Second, many who argue that youth unemployment is partially caused by a mismatch between graduates’ skills and the skills that employers need, also believe that revitalizing vocational education and training can help address the problem. Third, a skilled workforce that can easily adapt to technological change is likely a fundamental component for countries to remain competitive in the global economy.

Job tasks drive development

Dev Nathan's picture
Dev Nathan, guest blogger, is Professor at the Institute for Human Development, New Delhi
 
 © Stephan Gladieu / World Bank
Nebiba Mohammed, 28, works at the Shints textile factory plants, 45 minutes outside of the Addis Ababa city center. Photo: © Stephan Gladieu / World Bank  

Economics usually distinguishes between different sectors as low-tech (e.g. garments), medium-tech (e.g. automobiles), or high-tech (e.g. IT products). But the splintering of production within global value chains (GVCs) shows a need for a finer differentiation of production segments by tasks based on their knowledge levels. This is because development is not so much a matter of the sector in which jobs are being carried out, as of the knowledge content of the activity itself.

A tale of twin demographics: Youth in cities

Nicole Goldin's picture
60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18 by 2030.  How can we harness youth potential as a growth engine for cities? Photo: Arne Hoel/ World Bank

This week thousands of policy-makers, experts, NGOs and urban-minded citizens of all stripes are convening in Quito, Ecuador to discuss the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III – a significant global convening that occurs every 20 years. And, in a couple weeks, amid the costumes and candy, ghosts and goblins of Halloween, the world will mark UN World Cities Day on October 31st. For good reason, youth are part of the conversation.  In today’s global landscape, two demographic patterns should stand out:  rapid urbanization and large youth populations.  These patterns are especially robust across developing nations.  Already the worlds’ cities host half of its citizens, and Asia and Africa are expected to account for 90% of urban growth. While growing, cities have also become younger – many of the world’s nearly four billion people under the age of 30 live in urban areas, and according to UN-HABITAT, it is estimated that 60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18 by 2030.