With the rapid speed of technological innovation and artificial intelligence around us currently, do you sometimes wonder how this will change the nature of work for our current and the next generation? The following is a short summary of the highlights mentioned in the World Development Report 2019 of the World Bank that was released as a draft on May 25th. This may help to clarify some of your questions.
History repeats itself
In 1931 there was concern that the machine with make the worker unnecessary. During the same time economist John Maynard Keynes warned about widespread unemployment. According to the World Bank report evidence suggests that our generation is not any more on the verge of unemployment than the previous century. In order to be prepared for the changing nature of work it is important that we understand how technological changes can create new opportunities, what will be the impact, and how can we best prepare for the changing nature of work in the coming decades.
With an improved digital infrastructure, we will be able to extend our market for services and new sectors will be created. Access to digital information can enhance the productivity of workers. Companies can use new technologies to overcome information barriers and be able to innovate.
Innovations lead to improved global standards of living
Current examples include an increase of life expectancy, basic health care, education, and average income. We have the ability to connect virtually from almost anywhere in the world, leading to a rise in aspirations, and voices are more likely to be heard.
Technological innovations will have an effect on employment with jobs being lost due to automation. Workers who do routine tasks that can be ‘codifiable’ will be most vulnerable. It will be important to understand the changing nature of work and where forces of labor supply and demand collide.
Certain countries may be more affected as young people will join a labor market with uncertain demand. In some countries in Africa and South Asia there are too few large formal private firms that will cause a delay in growth.
Delay in growth
To help with the internal growth of those countries that are more vulnerable for unemployment, attention needs to be paid to trade barriers, domestic bias toward state owned or politically connected firms, if there is a slow pace of technology adoption, and stifling regulations.
The best way any individual can prepare for the changing nature of work is to accept that technology is reshaping the skills needed for work. Focus on training and development of cognitive skills, job-specific skills, and socio-emotional skills.