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.
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.
Technology is shaking up labor markets around the world. Increasingly intelligent machines are taking over routine jobs. Three-D printing is making many traditional, labor-intensive production processes obsolete. In total, almost half of all jobs may be at risk in the United States due to automation. Job losses are no longer just limited to blue collar occupations, but increasingly also affect high-paying white collar jobs such as in insurance, in the health sector or even in government bureaucracies. Is this the end of work as we know it? Not so fast, say some, who argue that technological progress and automation have not necessarily led to less demand for work on aggregate. An often cited example is the fact that the introduction of the automatic teller machine was accompanied by an expansion in retail banking jobs as banks opened more branches.