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Educational institutions should offer students and workers soft skills, entrepreneurial and managerial skills that are harder to automate and offer workers the flexibility to move between jobs. This also means providing students and workers with digital and IT skills, computer science and computer programming skills.

Changes within Industries and Labour Markets

Structural change in developing countries is usually understood as a shift of employment from agriculture to industry, and from less skill-intensive manufacturing (like textile) to more sophisticated and high-skilled ones (like machinery and electronics). With increasing globalization of production processes, this typology no longer holds true. Nowadays, most manufacturing products are produced in global value chains, with different stages of production taking place in different regions of the world. This has major consequences for our understanding of development patterns [1].

Nowadays industrial upgrading is not merely the shift from one industry to another such as from textile to electronics, but also the shifts from less to more advanced tasks within the same industry. As yet, our knowledge about this later type of structural change is very limited. The digital economy, innovation, artificial intelligence, robotization and 3D printing, among other technological advances, will contribute to structural changes within industries and labor markets [2].

These developments also provide an opportunity for the creation of more and better jobs. History has shown – through previous industrial revolutions – that after initial disruption, technological change has brought improvements in job quality, without necessarily precipitating a loss in the overall quantity of jobs.

Industry 4

The current industrial revolution, led by the digital revolution, presents an opportunity to create more and better jobs. Although history may offer a favorable precedent, there are reasons to believe that this industrial revolution may be different. For one thing, the pace of change is faster, offering little time for pre-emptive action and timely reaction. For some, however, the most likely scenario is one in which the current inequalities are exacerbated, which merits consideration of changes to the distribution of productivity gains. As some of the defining tasks of jobs are automated, certain jobs, such as those requiring repeated actions, will be lost [3].

Photo: Pixabay



Routine, repetitive and physical jobs will disappear, as will these tasks within jobs. These include “blue-collar” jobs but also – and in contrast with previous disruptions – “white-collar” jobs. Work that is difficult to automate will gain more prominence for human labor, for example, complex tasks relying on high-level cognitive skills, soft skills, and creativity. Certain industries might disappear as a result of specific technologies (e.g. 3D printing), wherein entire production chains may be reorganized and relocated, so that production takes place closer to consumers or resources. The changes brought about by automation will increase the demand for certain types of jobs and skills.

The occupational structure of our economies will change, too, according to the human’s advantage over machines. As machines penetrate all occupations, the future of work will be one in which workers function alongside machines or computers. Jobs in research, development, and support for new technologies will remain and grow. Productivity gains will increase leisure hours and hence the demand for services in the recreation sector will rise. Jobs in the care economy will increase in the near future; however, a machine may eventually be able to carry out related tasks, albeit devoid of any emotional or social content.

Photo: Pixabay


Job Quality

In labor economics, job quality was traditionally understood as being represented by the wage level, while in some sociological or industrial relations studies, it was related to working conditions. Recent developments in economics and socio-economic approaches propose additional dimensions to the definition of job quality. Developments in human capital theory recognize the heterogeneity of both jobs and workers, and one step can be made to differentiate job quality according to the skills involved in particular jobs or the skill-match between workers and jobs. In the recent framework, the approach to job quality is enriched by the consideration of workers’ job satisfaction and workers’ well-being. [4]

The impact of innovation and technology on the world of work will vary considerably by country. Job quality will not necessarily increase as a result of technological change. Moreover, human labor can always compete if workers are willing to accept sufficiently low wages. This, in turn, highlights the challenge for developing economies and their ability to remain competitive in a global economy where productivity, innovation, and competitiveness rely on high-level skills. [3]

Inequality within and between Countries

The future of work will be marked by greater inequality within and between countries. Productivity gains will be led by capital – owners of capital will reap the benefits of future productivity gains. The declining labor share of income already observed will continue and, if capital remains in the hands of a few social actors, inequality will increase exponentially.

Technological change will disrupt the labor market, and it will change the types of jobs available and how they are carried out. The skills needed to carry out these tasks will change as well, highlighting the role of education providers and policy-makers.

Technical vocational institutions

Given the pace of innovation and technological change, higher education has to be innovative. There is a greater need for liberal arts education versus occupation-oriented education. Incentives for workers to upskill and gain high-level skills may need to be devised, particularly in emerging economies.

Photo: Mircea Iancu

Universities and technical vocational institutions need to continuously adapt to the changing nature of jobs, building human capital that will allow future workers to remain relevant in the labor market and to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to the changing employment situation. The specific jobs that will be created, and the benefits that a society will reap from the future of work, will depend on the availability of skills to meet the upcoming demand. Education providers need to keep pace, innovate and re-orient. [3]

Train in the Skills that is hard to Atomize

Educational institutions should offer students and workers soft skills (e.g. social and communication skills, creativity and teamwork), entrepreneurial and managerial skills that are harder to automate and offer workers the flexibility to move between jobs. This also means providing students and workers with digital and IT skills, computer science and computer programming skills, as interactions with machines will be a common denominator across most, if not all, jobs.

This could mean offering educational services which would orient students towards general education instead of occupation-based education, mitigating the risk to students of those occupations changing or even disappearing in the medium term. General education (e.g. liberal arts education) may equip students with the skills to be flexible and remain relevant in a changing labor market. [3]

Photo: rawpixel.com



[1] Ye, Xianjia: Industrial Structural Change and the Shifts in Comparative Advantage in Globalized Production (2016)

[2] Work in the Future (https://lucu.nkb.no/work-in-the-future/)

[3] The Future of Work We Want: A global dialogue. ILO (2017)

[4] Christine Erhel and Mathilde Guergoat-Larivière: Job quality and labour market performance (2010)

(Photo: Mikes Photos)

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