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The future of jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce

The developing outlines of the new world of work are promptly becoming a lived reality for millions of workers and companies around the world.

The essential opportunities for economic prosperity, societal progress and individual success in this new world of work are huge, yet they depend crucially on the ability of all concerned stakeholders to initiate reform in education and training systems, labour market policies, business approaches to developing skills, employment arrangements and existing social contracts.

According to a report on The Future of Jobs published by the World Economic Forum last week, what the future of work might hold is a concern that resonates broadly.  As technological breakthroughs rapidly shift the frontier between the work tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines and algorithms, global labour markets are likely to undergo major transformations.

The report underlines that these transformations, if managed wisely, could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, pose the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality and broader polarization. The focus of this report is to arrive at a better understanding of the potential of new technologies to create as well as disrupt jobs and to improve the quality and productivity of the existing work of human employees.

 It further points out that the economic history, such as augmentation of existing jobs through technology is expected to create new tasks from app development to piloting drones to remotely monitoring patient health to certified care workers—opening up opportunities for an entirely new range of livelihoods for workers. This, therefore means that the Fourth Industrial Revolution technological advancement is set to reduce the number of workers required for certain work tasks.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds that companies are seeking to harness new and emerging technologies to reach higher levels of efficiency of production and consumption, expand into new markets, and compete on new products for a global consumer base composed increasingly of digital natives.

Yet in order to harness the transformative potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, business leaders across all industries and regions will increasingly be called upon to formulate a comprehensive workforce strategy ready to meet the challenges of this new era of accelerating change and innovation.

The Future of Jobs report states that as workforce transformations accelerate the window of opportunity for proactive management of this, change is closing fast and business, government and workers must proactively plan and implement a new vision for the global labour market.

The report finds out that four specific technological advances—ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology—are set to dominate the 2018–2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth.

They are flanked by a range of socio-economic trends driving business opportunities in tandem with the spread of new technologies, such as national economic growth trajectories; expansion of education and the middle classes, in particular in developing economies; and the move towards a greener global economy through advances in new energy technologies.

By 2022, according to the stated investment intentions of companies surveyed for this report, 85 percent of respondents are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big data analytics. Similarly, large proportions of companies are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of technologies such as the internet of things and app- and web enabled markets, and to make extensive use of cloud computing.

Machine learning and augmented and virtual reality are poised to likewise receive considerable business investment. While estimated use cases for humanoid robots appear to remain somewhat more limited over the 2018–2022 period under consideration in this report, collectively, a broader range of recent robotics technologies at or near commercialization— including stationary robots, non-humanoid land robots and fully automated aerial drones, in addition to machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence— are attracting significant business interest in adoption.

Robot adoption rates diverge significantly across sectors, with 37 percent to 23 percent of companies planning this investment, depending on industry. Companies across all sectors are most likely to adopt the use of stationary robots, in contrast to humanoid, aerial or underwater robots, however leaders in the Oil and Gas industry report the same level of demand for stationary and aerial and underwater robots, while employers in the Financial Services industry are most likely to signal.

Nearly 50 percent of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38 percent of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise.

 In addition, businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, with many respondents highlighting their intention to engage workers in a more flexible manner, utilizing remote staffing beyond physical offices and decentralisation of operations.  The planned adoption of humanoid robots in the period up to 2022.

Companies expect a significant shift on the frontier between humans and machines when it comes to existing work tasks between 2018 and 2022. Furthermore, this report indicates that in 2022 no less than 54 percent employees will require re- and upskilling. Of these about 35 percent are expected to require additional training of up to six months, 9 percent will require re-skilling  lasting six to 12 months, while 10 percent will require additional skills training of more than a year.

Some of the skills expected to grow towards 2022 include analytical thinking and innovation as well as active learning and learning strategies.  Therefore increasing importance of skills such as technology design and programming highlights the growing demand for various forms of technology identified by employers surveyed for this report.

The findings of this report suggest the need for a comprehensive ‘augmentation strategy’, an approach where businesses look to utilise the automation of some job tasks to complement and enhance their human workforces’ comparative strengths and ultimately to enable and empower employees to extend to their full potential.

Rather than narrowly focusing on automation-based labour cost savings, an augmentation strategy takes into account the broader horizon of value-creating activities that can be accomplished by human workers, often in complement to technology, when they are freed of the need to perform routinized, repetitive tasks and better able to use their distinctively human talents.

However, to unlock this positive vision, workers will need to have the appropriate skills enabling them to thrive in the workplace of the future and the ability to continue to retrain throughout their lives. Crafting a sound in-company lifelong learning system, investing in human capital and collaborating with other stakeholders on workforce strategy should thus be key business imperatives, critical to companies’ medium to long-term growth, as well as an important contribution to society and social stability.

A mindset of agile learning will also be needed on the part of workers as they shift from the routines and limits of today’s jobs to new, previously unimagined futures. Finally, policy-makers, regulators and educators will need to play a fundamental role in helping those who are displaced repurpose their skills or retrain to acquire new skills and to invest heavily in the development of new agile learners in future workforces by tackling improvements to education and training systems, as well as updating labour policy to match the realities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.

The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.

He was speaking in  Parliament on Tuesday delivering  Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a  motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.

The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.

The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.

The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.

This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.

Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.

Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.

However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.

Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.

When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.

This  as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.

Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.

The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.

Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.

In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.

Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.

Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.

Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.

Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance   Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”

He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”

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