We should not be over-worried about the rise of the platform economy,says The Economist. The debate rages on as to the impact this emerging model, which connects labor supply and demand directly outside the bounds of regulated labor and firms, will have on the conventional structure of work. Will permanent jobs and work protection collapse? For now, data suggests that gig jobs mainly provide additional income for those already employed elsewhere and transitional earnings for those in search of steadier work. Serfs up, The changing labour market, The Economist, October 6, 2018.
The major work and labor transformations that technology is causing could greatly improve the quality of work, or sharpen inequality and skills gaps. It all depends on how these transformations will be managed by governments, the business sector and workers, but time is running short, says the World Economic Forum in its 2018 edition of The Future of Jobs Report. Key findings among trends to emerge by 2022 include: naming the drivers of change (ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, AI, big data analytics and cloud technology); the business sector’s intended embrace of technology in the near future and interest in developing robotization; the transformations to come in the geographical landscape of production, distribution and value chains; technology-driven changes in the configuration of work and employment; an expectation that growing jobs will offset declining ones; growing demand for data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers and e-commerce and social media specialists; an expected average shift of 42% in required workforce skills; and a forecasted re- and upskilling requirement for 54% of all employees. The report suggests the adoption by the business sector of a comprehensive “augmentation strategy” that would allow skills enhancement for all employees, as opposed to a narrower strategy solely focused on cost savings through automation. This will require companies to put in place lifelong learning systems that invest in human capital along with other stakeholders as a booster of medium- to long-term growth, while public authorities and educators will have to invest crucial efforts in reskilling displaced workers and training new agile learners by enhancing education and training systems. The Future of Jobs Report, Centre for the New Economy and Society, World Economic Forum, 2018.
“AI has the potential to enhance collective intelligence and intellectual diversity, allowing human workers to do more diverse thinking, become more efficient and undertake more creative, fulfilling labor.” This is the working hypothesis adopted by the drafters of a Tata Communications report on AI and the future of work. Their study suggests that 93% of business leaders are currently tracking AI progress, and that the main beneficiaries among companies will be small and large – rather than medium-size – organizations. The main finding of the survey is that the structure of work will change and require greater agility and flexibility, but that AI can help individuals become more curious and nimble while enhancing human collaboration and cognitive diversity within groups. The authors propose an optimistic scheme for tackling AI transformations in the workplace, in which AI would provide a new cognitive perspective that defeats negative outlooks and assumptions about AI and related technologies posing a threat to human work and the future of humanity. Cognitive Diversity: AI & the Future of Work, TATA Communications, 2018.
Talent developing is the answer to the short shelf life of skills. A survey of some 4,000 professionals on LinkedIn shows that talent developers are and will increasingly be key to the adaptability of both companies and the workforce to an environment that is changing ever faster. Among the findings put forth by the survey, the most important ones are: stakeholders’ recognition that training for soft skills is indispensable to offset the adverse effects of AI and automation; business leaders’ concern that talent developers are too focused on training for the skills currently in demand and not involved enough in preventing future skill gaps; the growing reliance of talent developers on online learning solutions to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce; the need to help employees find the time to upgrade their skills or reskill, by making access to online learning easier and getting managers involved in the process in order to boost employees’ motivation. 2018 Workplace Learning Report, The Rise and Responsibility of Talent Development in the New Labor Market, LinkedIn Learning, 2018.
For those worried about robots taking jobs away from people, the World Bank sounds a reassuring note. Focusing on the changing nature of work, the World Bank’s World Development Report 2019 argues that industrial jobs have indeed receded in developed economies but that the rise in the industrial sector in East Asia has more than compensated for this loss. These jobs therefore are not disappearing yet, but they are relocating. What is clearly on the decline due to robotization and automation are the repetitive skills specific to a single job. This poses challenges for all economies, in which more advanced cognitive and emotional skills are in higher demand. The proper response is therefore for governments to invest in human capital with a focus on disadvantaged groups and early education as well as to enhance social protection by uncoupling it to some extent from formal employment. To achieve this, tax policies should be upgraded with a view to generating adequate revenues that will make it possible to implement these broad reforms. World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work, The World Bank, 2019.