Dubbed the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, technology disruption could be a key growth driver for economies over the coming years. But for women, advances in technology also pose a threat, as many of their jobs could be displaced. A perfect storm of technological trends, from mobile internet and cloud technology to ‘big data’ and the ‘internet of things’, means that, as new work trends evolve, existing gender inequalities could worsen further.
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.
Robots are just one of the latest stages of technological progress. The number of robots being used by businesses to boost productivity has increased rapidly in recent years. And there is no reason to believe that this pace of robotization will begin to slow any time soon.
India and Pakistan are urbanizing at remarkably rapid rates. India’s urban population has increased from less than 20 percent of its overall population in 1951 to more than 30 percent today. In Pakistan, the share of the urban population—well under 20 percent in the 1960s, is more than a third today.
On World Youth Skills Day, we acknowledge the millions of young people that are falling in between the cracks because of a “skills gap” – a mismatch on the skills that they have acquired and the skills demanded by today’s employers.
There is a huge gap between a child playing with a smartphone and a young adult who is capable of manipulating that technology to make an income, or to create a business. Assuming that today’s young people are digital natives seriously risks equating the ability to consume media with the ability to participate in the digital economy. Education systems need to ensure that young students and workers are prepared to capture the benefits that smarter machines and connectivity will bring. Accepting this responsibility, and not assuming that young people everywhere are naturally able to access and participate in the digital economy, will be a critical first step.
But she didn’t do it on her own.