Recent trends in automation and rapid technology advances, collectively dubbed ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution (“4IR”), are radically shifting the economic landscape, and changing the nature of jobs and the profile of skills required in the labor force. There are challenges emerging around the world and East Asia is getting ready.
A global challenge
As automation expands, low-skilled and low-income countries become more exposed to automation. Because of job clustering, reskilling and acquiring skills such as complex problem-solving, high-level technical skills, and social skills have become more important for workers to adapt to new and emerging industries. The challenges facing the global force will be significant and require collaborative and innovative emphasis on enhanced methods for developing the skills needed to adapt and remain productive. Carl Benedikt Frey of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, reminds us that, “The emergence of new industry suggests that the new types of jobs being developed are vastly more skilled than the average types of jobs.”
When painting creates hope
"The project is good, it allows me to be an independent woman," says Edwige Domi, who recently completed training in building painting. A resident of the Koumassi commune in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, she is carefully applying paint to a private building located at cité 80 logements in the commune. Beside her is Jean-Claude N'dri, who states that "it's a trade that opens many doors."
During my years in college, the number of unemployed graduates in my city made me want to study harder, and seek the skills required in the workplace while I was still a student. Luckily, in my fourth year, I began volunteering for a local NGO. That volunteerism really scaled up my skills and later helped me get a fulltime job.
The general lack of vocational training and a still-nascent volunteerism culture remain the main reasons why the majority of Somali youth are unemployed. We can boost youth employment opportunities by not only building up their skills, but also by encouraging volunteerism as a pathway to employment.
The 2015 Economic Report on Africa by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) put Tanzania’s unemployment rate at 10.3 percent. It also reported that the number of unemployed women in the country is higher than that of unemployed men.
But there are a number of ways in which we can boost job opportunities for youth in Tanzania.
In a recent exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, “Dinosaurs Among Us,” paleontologists use prehistoric fossil records of bones, feathers, and nests to show that some dinosaurs did not go extinct but, rather, evolved into the creatures we see today. The links they trace show how avian dinosaurs (ones that fly) evolved into modern-day birds. Paleontologists argue that avian-dinosaurs’ swift aerial mobility played a key role in determining their survival while their land-based relatives failed to thrive. Flight enabled them to relocate and adapt to drastically changing environments—a skill that their land-based relatives lacked.
Figure 1. Paleontologists argue that avian-dinosaurs (left) adapted to the changing environment quickly and evolved into birds (right).
Billions of US dollars have been spent—by governments, microfinance organizations, and NGOs—on training the owners of small businesses. Traditional programs typically aim to teach practices such as record-keeping, stock control, and simple marketing. But while these do seem to improve the performance of small businesses, most result in little real change, making the impact hard to detect.
If you are looking for a good reading list before the summer ends, we’ve compiled a selection of five recent papers and publications that touch on jobs and changing landscape of labor markets. These recommended readings have one thing in common: they analyze the challenges ahead through different lenses. How is the labor market recovering after the economic crisis? Can life-long learning become workers’ strategy for upskilling in a digital economy? Have countries improved in reducing gender gap at work? What policies can support job creation?
How is Singapore anticipating the transformation of logistics?
Singapore has been considered a major logistics hub for quite some time, and is currently ranked first in Asia according to the Word Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. The sector, however, is experiencing significant transformations such as the rise of digitally enabled logistics services, and the emergence of new delivery capabilities (autonomous vehicles, 3D printing).
The Industry Transformation Map (ITM) will help Singaporean logistics keep its competitive edge in this rapidly evolving context, and aims to achieve a value-added of S$8.3billion (US$6 billion) by 2020. In particular, the ITM intends to strengthen innovation, productivity, as well as talent development across the logistics sector—including by leveraging trends such as artificial intelligence and collaborative robotics.
Parvati Amma comes from Pulkattai village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu where the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP) has conducted a unique experiment. In an effort to raise the very low levels of women’s participation in India’s labor force, it is helping rural women break into jobs that are traditionally held by men, where they could increase their earnings significantly.
In this part of Madurai district, most of the men folk are successful masons. The women worked as helpers, merely passing tools to the men as they laid brick over brick to build houses and office blocks. Being unskilled, the women earned half the men’s wages.
Even though Tamil Nadu is one of the most urbanized states in India with high literacy rates, new buildings are proceeding apace amidst the state’s booming construction industry, attracting over a million migrant workers - more than a tenth of whom work as unskilled labor. There is, however, a paucity of trained masons.
The challenge for the women was to take on age-old social and cultural barriers and enter into this exclusive male preserve. Masonry has never been seen as a woman’s job in India, much less in this conservative rural area. For a start, the women wear sarees that constrain them from climbing onto scaffolding to build the higher storeys. Masons are also required to travel long distances for work, and staying away from their families is not something the women could easily do. Apart from mobility constraints and worksites that are not women-friendly; domestic responsibilities, burden of child and elderly care, and a conservative societal outlook, are all challenges.
Nonetheless, the women of Madurai’s Pulkattai village were not to be daunted. They saw this as an opportunity to prove their worth and double their wages in the bargain.
Supported by a visionary panchayat president and an expert mason from the village who had confidence in the women’s capability - Parvati Amma and 25 other women joined the masonry training offered by the project.