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Nelson Mandela, the first president of postapartheid South Africa, once said, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farmworker can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

Automation is reshaping work and the skills demanded for work. The demand for advanced cognitive skills and sociobehavioral skills is increasing, whereas the demand for narrow job-specific skills is waning. Meanwhile, the skills associated with “adaptability” are increasingly in demand. This combination of specific cognitive skills (critical thinking and problem-solving) and sociobehavioral skills (creativity and curiosity) is transferable across jobs.

How well countries cope with the demand for changing job skills depends on how quickly the supply of skills shifts. Education systems, however, tend to resist change. A significant part of the readjustment in the supply of skills is happening outside of compulsory education and formal jobs. Early childhood learning, tertiary education, and adult learning sought outside the workplace are increasingly important in meeting the skills that will be sought by future labor markets. This article shows how.

A Large Share of Children Entering Primary School Today Will Work in Occupations that Do Not Yet Exist.

Automation—and the adoption of technology more generally—makes some jobs obsolete. The demand for skills linked to home appliance repair, for example, is shrinking quickly because technology is driving down the price of appliances and improving reliability. At the same time, innovation is creating new types of jobs. In fact, a large share of children entering primary school in 2018 will work in occupations that do not yet exist. Even in low- and middle-income countries, many people are employed in jobs that did not exist three decades ago. India has nearly 4 million app developers; Uganda has over 400,000 internationally certified organic farmers; and China has 100,000 data labelers.

Photo: Caio Resende
 

Meanwhile, many current jobs are being retooled into new forms, resulting in new and sometimes unexpected skill combinations. In 2018 a marketing professional might well be asked to write algorithms. A physics graduate may land a job as a quantitative trader in the finance industry. Workers who bring emerging skills into relevant technical fields of expertise—such as teachers who are good at web design and actuaries who are proficient in big data analytics—are likely to be in high demand.

Which skills are in less demand in 2018? Evidence from developed countries points to job polarization—the expansion of high- and low-skill jobs coupled with the decline of middle-skill jobs. The demand for workers who can undertake nonroutine cognitive tasks, such as high-skilled research, is increasing. So is the relative demand for workers able to handle nonroutine tasks that cannot be automated easily, such as food preparation. Conversely, the demand for workers for procedural routine tasks, which are often performed in middle-skill jobs such as data entry, is declining because of automation.

FIGURE 1 In many developing countries, the share of employment in high-skill occupations has increased Annual average change in employment share, by occupation skill level, circa 2000–circa 2015

Source: WDR 2019 team, based on World Bank’s International Income Distribution Data Set.

Note: High-skill occupations: managers, professionals, technicians, and associate professionals. Middle-skill occupations: clerical support workers; sales and services workers; craft and related trades workers; skilled agricultural, forestry, and fishery workers; plant and machine operators and assemblers. Low-skill occupations: elementary occupations such as cleaners and helpers; laborers in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries; laborers in mining, construction, manufacturing, and transport; food preparation assistants; street and related sales and services workers

Is the same pattern beginning to emerge in low- and middle-income countries? Not quite. In many developing countries, the demand for highskill workers is increasing (figure 1). The share of workers in high-skill occupations increased by 8 percentage points or more in Bolivia, Ethiopia, and South Africa from 2000 to 2014. But the change in demand for lowand middle-skill jobs is more heterogeneous across countries. In Jordan, the share of employment in middle-skill jobs increased by 7.5 percentage points between 2000 and 2016. In Bangladesh, this share fell by almost 20 percentage points during the same period.

A Change in the Demand for Workers All Over the World.

This change in the demand for workers for low- and middle-skill jobs in developing countries is not surprising. What happens at this end of the skills spectrum is likely to be driven by the competing forces of automation and globalization. The rate of technology adoption tends to vary considerably across developing countries. In Europe and Central Asia, 26 percent of the population had fixed broadband subscriptions in 2016, compared with just 2 percent in South Asia. Globalization is bringing the low- and medium-skill jobs of developed countries to some—but not all—developing countries. Depending on the relative speed of these forces, some developing countries are seeing an increase in middle-skill jobs; others are seeing a decline.

Picture: mali maeder
 

Creating a skilled workforce for the future of work rests on the growing demand for advanced cognitive skills, sociobehavioral skills, and adaptability. Evidence across low- to high-income countries suggests that in recent decades jobs are being defined by more cognitive, analytical tasks. In Bolivia and Kenya, more than 40 percent of workers using computers perform complex tasks that require advanced programming. Indeed, the demand is growing for transferable higher-order cognitive skills such as logic, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and reasoning. In all regions of the world, these skills are consistently ranked among those most valued by employers. Analysis of the job markets in Denmark, France, Germany, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland reveals that a one standard deviation increase in complex problem-solving skills is associated with a 10–20 percent higher wage. In Armenia and Georgia, the ability to solve problems and learn new skills yields a wage premium of nearly 20 percent.

The demand for sociobehavioral skills is also increasing in developing countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the adoption of digital technology has placed more importance on general cognitive skills and raised the demand for workers with interpersonal skills. In Cambodia, El Salvador, Honduras, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, more than half of firms report shortages of workers with specific sociobehavioral skills, such as commitment to work.

The Ability to Adapt Quickly to Changes is Increasingly Valued By the Labor Market.

Technological change makes it harder to anticipate which job-specific skills will thrive and which will become obsolete in the near future. In the past, shifts in skill requirements prompted by technological progress took centuries to manifest themselves (figure 2). In the digital era, advances in technology call for new skills seemingly overnight. The ability to adapt quickly to changes is increasingly valued by the labor market. The sought-after trait is adaptability—the ability to respond to unexpected circumstances and to unlearn and relearn quickly. This trait requires a combination of certain cognitive skills (critical thinking, problemsolving) and sociobehavioral skills (curiosity, creativity). A study of technical and vocational students in Nigeria showed that the sociobehavioral skill of self-efficacy was positively and significantly predictive of career adaptability.

Strong skill foundations are important for developing advanced cognitive skills, sociobehavioral skills, and skills predictive of adaptability. For most children, these skill foundations are formed through primary and secondary education. Yet, according to the World Development Report 2018, the acquisition of foundational skills that one would expect to happen in schools is not occurring in many low- and middle-income countries.

Important skills readjustments are happening increasingly outside of compulsory education and formal jobs. Skills development for the changing nature of work is a matter of lifelong learning. This kind of learning is especially germane to skills readjustment amid demographic change—be it the aging populations of East Asia and Eastern Europe or the large youth populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

FIGURE 2 The rate of technology diffusion is increasing

Source: WDR 2019 team


The Photo on Top: DGM Photo

The article is from Chapter 4: THE CHANGING NATURE OF WORK. WORLD DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2019. The World Bank 2019

Categories: Artificial Intelligence, Future Work, Technology, World


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Lucubrate Magazine
Lucubrate Magazine

Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
Lucubrate Magazine is a global based on the web magazine with the main office in Norway.

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