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.”
Automation is heralding a renewed race between education and technology. However, the ability of workers to compete with automation is handicapped by the poor performance of education systems in most developing countries. This will prevent many from benefiting from the high returns to schooling.
Schooling quality is low
The quality of schooling is not keeping pace, essentially serving a break on the potential of “human capital” (the skills, knowledge, and innovation that people accumulate). As countries continue to struggle to equip students with basic cognitive skills- the core skills the brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, and reason- new demands are being placed.
Economic research is essential for designing and implementing evidence-based solutions to improve job opportunities. In a recent conference organized by the World Bank and IZA, researchers from around the world presented over 30 research papers on important labor topics such as migration, gender, youth employment, and labor policies in low-income countries. Here is an illustrative sample of four innovative works presented during the conference.
While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.
. As highlighted in the 2016 World Development Report “Digital Dividends”, we find ourselves amid the greatest information and communications revolution in human history and must take advantage of this rapid technological change to make the world more prosperous and inclusive. , share their ideas and learn from one another while discussing the challenges and opportunities created by this technological shift.
Finding a good job is increasingly difficult – especially for young people. Globally, young people are up to four times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Furthermore, the lack of opportunity can have devastating consequences for their long-term employment outcomes. Youth often lack the skills and competencies that are in high demand from employers, but they also face information gaps about which relevant skills they should signal to prospective employers.
To better understand youth and skills trends in emerging markets, the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) Coalition embarked on a research collaboration with LinkedIn to analyze demand and supply side data from 390,000 entry-level job postings and 6.4 million LinkedIn profiles of young people (aged 21-29) in four diverse middle-income countries. Using big data analytics, the recently released report The Skills Gap or Signaling Gap: Insights from LinkedIn in emerging markets of Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa brings the following three insights on what skills employers in those countries are looking for in youth hires.
The way we communicate, produce, and relate to technology is evolving quickly.
Tell me something I don’t know, you’ll say.
That’s where Benedict Evans, a prominent tech guru from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz ('a16z') in Silicon Valley, comes in. In a recent presentation at the World Bank (Mobile is Eating the World) Evans shared inspiring, and at times, unnerving insights on how technology is shaping our world and how it might impact the global development community. Here are some key takeaways:
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.
Let’s be honest. The Middle East and North Africa is burning, and in some areas it is literally burning. Conflict and fragility have long warped what once was the cradle of civilization and the inspiration for the many inventions we can’t live without today. However, in the midst of that fire hope rises, a driver of change that is transforming the ugly reality into a bright future.
After I fled the war in Iraq in 2006, I was pessimistic about what the future was holding for that region. Year after another, the domino-effect of collapse became a reality that shaped the region and its people. Yet, fast-forward to 2017, I have witnessed what I never thought I would see in my lifetime: the new renaissance in the Middle East and North Africa.
I have just recently come back from attending the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the Dead Sea in Jordan. This year, the Forum and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, partnered to bring together 100 Arab start-ups that are shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
There, the positive vibe was all around; no negativity, no pessimism. Instead there was a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm, hunger for change, and the will to take the region to a whole new future, away from conflict and the current norm of pessimism.
My previous blog post surveyed some of the recent trends in developing global measures of urbanization. In this post, I want to turn to a brief discussion for scholars and practitioners on some possible applications and areas of focus for ongoing work:
[Download draft paper "Bright Lights, Big Cities: a Review of Research and Findings on Global Urban Expansion"]
While there are a number of different maps for documenting urban expansion, each has different strengths and weaknesses in application. Coarser resolution maps such as MODIS can be used for mapping the basic contours of artificial built-up areas in regional and comparative scales. On the other hand, high-resolution maps are best suited for individual cities, as algorithms can be used to identify and classify observed colors, textures, shading, and patterns into different types of land uses. These levels of detail are difficult to use for reliable comparisons between cities as the types of building materials, structure shapes, light reflectivity, and other factors can vary widely between countries and regions.
Nonetheless, there are a number of applications for policymakers in this regard, from identifying and mapping green spaces and natural hazard risks to identifying and tracking areas of new growth, such as informal settlements. However, such approaches to land use detection require careful calibration of these automated methods, such as cross referencing with other available maps, or by “ground truthing” with a sample of street-level photos of various types of buildings and land cover as reference inputs for automation. One solution to this is the use of social media and geo-coded data to confirm and monitor changes in urban environments alongside the use of high-resolution satellite imagery.
Nighttime light maps also have gained traction as measures of urban extent and as ways to gauge changes in economic activity in large urban centers. They are probably less useful for documenting smaller settlements, which may be dimmer or have little significant variation in brightness. It is important to correct these types of maps for “overglow” measurement effects—where certain light may “bleed” or obscure the shapes and forms of very large, bright urban areas in relation to adjacent smaller and dimmer settlements (newer VIIRs maps have made some important advances in correcting this).