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​Are we heading towards a jobless future?

Randeep Sudan's picture
From the wheel to the steam engine, from the car to ‘New Horizons’ — an inter-planetary space probe capable of transmitting high-resolution images of Pluto and its moons — from the abacus to exascale super-computers, we have come a long way in our tryst with technology. Innovations are driving rapid changes in technology today and we are living in a world of perpetual technological change.
 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1965, Gordon Moore — co-founder of Intel Corporation — hypothesized that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every 18 to 24 months. This came to be known as Moore’s Law, the ramifications of which are hard to ignore in almost any aspect of our everyday lives. Information has become more accessible to people at lower costs. Today’s work force is globalized and there are few domains that are still untouched by technology.
 
Yet the very ubiquitous and rapidly evolving nature of information and communication technologies (ICTs) gives rise to fears of displacing more workers and potentially widening the economic gap between the rich and poor. Technological evolution and artificial intelligence are fast redefining the conventional structure of our society.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.


A Global Middle Class Is More Promise than Reality
Pew Global Research
The first decade of this century witnessed an historic reduction in global poverty and a near doubling of the number of people who could be considered middle income. But the emergence of a truly global middle class is still more promise than reality. In 2011, a majority of the world’s population (56%) continued to live a low-income existence, compared with just 13% that could be considered middle income by a global standard, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data.  And though there was growth in the middle-income population from 2001 to 2011, the rise in prosperity was concentrated in certain regions of the globe, namely China, South America and Eastern Europe. The middle class barely expanded in India and Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America.

Global Internet Report 2015: Mobile Evolution and Development of the Internet
Internet Society
While there's no question that the mobile Internet is changing everything, there are still big reasons why people aren't logging on. The 2015 Global Internet Report presents data that shows it's not always a question of if it's available, but rather how cost and a lack of useful content are core to why people are not opting in.  While things need to change, together we have the power to find new solutions so everyone is able to seize the potential of the mobile Internet. Read the 2015 Global Internet Report and together we can start closing the digital divide.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Beyond Propaganda: How authoritarian regimes are learning to engineer human souls in the age of Facebook.
Foreign Policy
Pity the poor propagandist! Back in the 20th century, it was a lot easier to control an authoritarian country’s hearts and minds. All domestic media could be directed out of a government office. Foreign media could be jammed. Borders were sealed, and your population couldn’t witness the successes of a rival system. You had a clear narrative with at least a theoretically enticing vision of social justice or national superiority, one strong enough to fend off the seductions of liberal democracy and capitalism. Anyone who disagreed could be isolated, silenced, and suppressed.  Those were the halcyon days of what the Chinese call “thought work” — and Soviets called the “engineering of human souls.” And until recently, it seemed as if they were gone forever. Today’s smart phones and laptops mean any citizen can be their own little media center. Borders are more open.

Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective
International Monetary Fund
Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. In advanced economies, the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest level in decades. Inequality trends have been more mixed in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs), with some countries experiencing declining inequality, but pervasive inequities in access to education, health care, and finance remain. Not surprisingly then, the extent of inequality, its drivers, and what to do about it have become some of the most hotly debated issues by policymakers and researchers alike.

Quote of the Week: Thomas Piketty

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Thomas Piketty"The success of my book shows there are a lot of people who are not economists but are tired of being told that those questions are too complicated for them." [...] “ What pleases me is that this book reaches ‘normal’ people, a rather wide public.”

- Thomas Piketty, a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is the author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), in which he argues that the rate of return on capital (wealth) in developed countries is persistently greater than economic growth. Other things being equal, he states, faster economic growth diminishes the importance of wealth in a society, while slower growth increases it. To counter the steady concentration of wealth, Piketty proposes a global tax on wealth. Piketty is also a professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), professor at the Paris School of Economics and Centennial professor at the London School of Economics.

The yawning divide between big city and countryside Tanzania

Nadia Belhaj Hassine's picture

Achieving shared prosperity, one of the World Bank’s twin-goals, isn’t just a middle-income country’s preoccupation. It has a special resonance in Tanzania, a US$1,000 per capita economy in East Africa.

Tanzania has seen remarkable economic growth and strong resilience to external shocks over the last decade. GDP grew at an annualized rate of approximately 7 percent.  Yet, this achievement was overshadowed by the slow response of poverty to the growing economy. The poverty rate has remained stagnant at around 34 percent until 2007 and started a slow decline of  about one percentage point per year, attaining 28.2 percent in 2012. To date, around 12 million Tanzanians continue to live in poverty, unable to meet their basic consumption needs, and more than 70 percent of the population still lives on less than US$2 per day. Promoting the participation of the poor in the growth process and improving their living standards remains a daunting challenge.

Could the UN’s new Progress of the World’s Women provide the foundations for feminist economic policy?

Duncan Green's picture

London launch of UN Women’s new flagship report,Progress of the World’s Women 2015-16Yesterday I went to the London launch of UN Women’s new flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women 2015-16, in the slightly incongruous setting of the Institution of Civil Engineers – walls adorned with portraits of bewigged old patriarchs from a (happily) bygone era (right).

The report is excellent. These big multilateral publications are usually a work of synthesis, bringing together existing research rather than breaking new ground. And that’s fine; it’s really important that a UN body has pulled such an excellent range of research together and made it accessible to policy makers. Gender and development debates suffer from a fair number of unsubstantiated claims and pretty dodgy stats (don’t get me started), and this report feels like something you can trust – I hope someone will go through it and pull out every major stat and graphic.

But the overall approach is both new and exciting, in that it applies an explicitly human rights approach to economic policy. Laura Turquet, UN Women researcher and report manager, summarized this as ‘bringing together human rights and economic policy-making to ask ‘what is the economy for?’’

This is a big deal, because the normal approach to gender and economic policy is incredibly reductive and instrumental – educate girls and get women into the workforce because it boosts growth! It ignores whether that will improve the lives of the said women or just pile more burdens onto their pre-existing roles as carers (of children, old people, neighbours), home maintainers etc etc.
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Tomorrow’s world: seven development megatrends challenging NGOs
The Guardian
As we move into 2015, many UK-based NGOs are wondering how to meet the challenges of a crucial year. What is the unique and distinct value that each organisation, and the UK sector as a whole, brings to international development, and how might this change in future? To help the sector get on the front foot we have identified seven “megatrends” and posed a few questions to highlight some of the key choices NGOs might need to make. At the end of next week we’ll be concluding a consultation with DfID on the future of the sector – all your thoughts are welcome.

Why emerging markets need smart internet policies
Gigaom
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has released its latest study into, well, the affordability of internet access. The study shows how big the challenge is on that front in emerging markets – for over two billion people there, fixed-line broadband costs on average 40 percent of their monthly income, and mobile broadband costs on average 10 percent of their monthly income. The United Nations’ “affordability target” for internet access is five percent of monthly income, so there’s clearly a ways to go in many developing countries. Almost 60 percent of global households are still unconnected and, unsurprisingly, those who can’t afford to get online tend to be poor, in rural communities and/or women.

The global women’s rights movement: What others can learn, a progress stocktake and some great videos for IWD

Duncan Green's picture

Duncan Green reviews the balance of achievements on gender equality as summarized in a new paper from Gender and Development Network and shares some videos in honor of International Women's Day.

Egyptian woman celebrates International Women's DayIt was International Women’s Day on Sunday, which is swiftly followed by celebrations around the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing conference (I still remember the buzz from women returning from that) and the start of the 59th  Commission on the Status of Women at the UN – an annual spotlight on progress (or otherwise) on women’s rights.

Gender is a big deal in Oxfam, and I’ve often been struck by what the rest of the development business can learn from progress on gender rights, and the activism that underpins it. For starters:

Power begins with ‘power within’, when previously marginalized people kindle their sense of rights, dignity and voice. Far more of our work should start there.

Norms really matter. Gender activism shows just how shallow a lot of advocacy can be, when it concentrates on the ephemera of policy, and ignores the social norms that underpin identity and injustice. And international movements can have real impact on those norms.

Stamina: any struggle worth its salt takes decades – you don’t just look for a quick win and move on.

The world beyond money – work on areas such as the ‘care economy’ highlights just how much of what really matters lies outside the monetary economy that dominates thinking on development. We should be talking about shame and joy as much as about income and assets.

(I also happen to think the gender activists could learn useful lessons from others, but that’s another post.)

As for IWD, first some heavy policy, then some fun videos.

How to narrow the gap between the rich and poor in Malaysia?

Frederico Gil Sander's picture

If you could make one New Year’s wish for your country, what would it be?

For many Malaysians, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wish for “a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society” likely resonated with their hopes for 2015.

Malaysians appear to be increasingly concerned about income inequality. According to a 2014 Pew Global survey, 77% of Malaysians think that the gap between the rich and poor is a big problem. The government has acknowledged that inequality remains high, and that tackling these disparities will be Malaysia’s “biggest challenge” in becoming a high-income nation.

How can Malaysia narrow the gap between the rich and poor? Global experience suggests two possible levers to achieve a more equitable income distribution.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

#Davosproblems: The financial crisis isn‘t over, and the inequality crisis is just beginning
Quartz
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting has kicked off in Davos, Switzerland under the banner of “The New Global Context.” Falling in the long shadow of the financial crisis, the WEF’s theme reflects as much hope as a creeping sense that economic turmoil is the new normal. Some seven years into the current crisis, the participants at Davos are acutely aware that the world economy still hasn’t recovered its past momentum.

The Power of Market Creation, How Innovation Can Spur Development
Foreign Affairs
Most explanations of economic growth focus on conditions or incentives at the global or national level. They correlate prosperity with factors such as geography, demography, natural resources, political development, national culture, or official policy choices. Other explanations operate at the industry level, trying to explain why some sectors prosper more than others. At the end of the day, however, it is not societies, governments, or industries that create jobs but companies and their leaders. It is entrepreneurs and businesses that choose to spend or not, invest or not, hire or not.


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