As we explained in previous posts, digital technologies present both threats and opportunities for the employment agenda in developing countries. Yet many countries lack the means to take full advantage of these opportunities, because of limited access to technology, a lack of skills, and the absence of a broad enabling environment, the so-called “analog” complements.
During a meeting with top government officials in Zambia recently, the World Bank Regional Vice-president for Africa, Makhtar Diop, asked what was at the top of their minds. "Jobs!", was their unanimous response. He turned around to his team and said: "Please continue to focus on jobs and support the government in achieving their ambition." Indeed, jobs is an issue we have been focusing on in Zambia for over a year.
Most of the discussion about the future of work focuses on how many jobs robots will take from humans. But this is just a (small) part of the change to come. As we explained in our previous blog, The changes that digital technology is introducing in the price of capital versus labor, the costs of transacting, the economies of scale, and the speed of innovation bring significant effects in three dimensions: the quantity, the quality, and the distribution of jobs. Let’s see them in detail.
The Future of Work was not only the first topic of this year’s G20 Labor and Employment Ministerial Meeting, it's also white hot in today’s blogosphere. Yet most pieces portray a developed world perspective with an emphasis on robots, and how they are taking the jobs away, and skills development as the key policy response. But How does it affect the world of work in developing countries?
On May 18-19, the G20 Ministers of Labor met in Bad Neuenahr, Germany to discuss and adopt their annual Labor and Employment Ministerial Meeting (LEMM) Declaration advocating for "an integrated set of policies that places people and jobs at center stage." In this, the meeting did not shy away from some of the more thorny issues to reach the overarching goal of fostering "inclusive growth and a global economy that works for everyone." It focused on the much-feared future-of-work, the longstanding challenge of more and better employment for women, better integration of recognized migrants and refugees in domestic labor markets, and ensuring decent work in the international supply chains.
The youth employment challenge is a stubborn reality in all regions and nearly every country. Over 35 per cent of the estimated 201 million unemployed people today are youth (between the ages of 15 and 24). Worldwide, the challenge is not only to create jobs but to ensure quality jobs for young people who are often underemployed, work in the informal economy, or engage in vulnerable employment. Today, two out of every five young people in the labor force are either working but poor or unemployed.
The food system currently employs the majority of people in developing countries, both in self and wage employment. And, according to our recent paper on jobs, all signs indicate that this system — which includes agriculture, as well as beyond-farm jobs in food processing, transportation, restaurants and others — will continue to be a major engine for job creation in the foreseeable future. As economies all over the world are confronted with the challenge of creating around 1.6 billion jobs over the next 15 years, it is important to harness the potential for job generation through productive alliances.
How can we provide employment to the 1.8 billion young people that live on this planet? Will we have enough jobs for all these young people? Will there be sufficient high-quality and high-productivity work, especially for women, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to finding meaningful work?
According to the World Bank Development Report on Digital Dividends (2016), the rapid spread of digital technologies around the world is boosting economic growth and expands opportunities in many instances; but the benefits of technological changes are not evenly distributed to workers globally. For high-skilled workers, technology in most cases complements their skills, increases their productivity, and often leads to higher wages. Whereas for middle and low-skilled workers, benefits depend on the degree to which technology either complements or substitutes workers in job functions.
Methods that use satellite data and machine learning present a good peek into how Big Data and new analytical methods will change how we measure poverty. I am not a poverty specialist, so I am wondering if these data and techniques can help in how we estimate job growth.