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Harnessing benefits of digitalisation requires visionary leadership to shift from fears to opportunities

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Photo: OSCE/Micky Kroell

The role of digital economy as a driver for innovation, competitiveness and growth are the focus of this year’s first Preparatory Meeting of the 26th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum, which opened today in Vienna.

“Managing economic transformation today requires a visionary and responsible leadership to shift from fears to opportunities, from challenges to prospects for sustainable growth and inclusive prosperity,” said Chairperson of the OSCE Permanent Council Ambassador Alessandro Azzoni, representing the 2018 OSCE Italian Chairmanship.

“A wide range of new knowledge and skills, combined with shared rules firmly guiding the economic and societal transformations to come, will be necessary,” he said. Azzoni added that digitalization, human capital and good-governance are the key elements of this transformation.

The two-day discussion will focus on ways to expand the benefits of the digital economy; ways to expand digital infrastructure and digital trade in the participating States of the OSCE; and how the digital economy can help to enhance connectivity and business interaction among the countries.

Particular attention will be given to the processes aimed at encouraging the emergence of an entrepreneurial spirit among young people, relying especially on the fact that SMEs and start-ups play a critical role in the development of a full range of new and innovative business models.

“Trust and security remain vital to enjoy the full potential of the digital economy,” said Azzoni. “Constructive discussions on threats and vulnerabilities in the use of ICTs, risks for public and private sectors, and ways to promote digital security in business are timely and needed.”

Andrea Gumina, Expert on innovation, digital economy and next production revolution at Italy’s G7 Presidency in 2017, shared his experience and suggested that managing innovations should be within OSCE’s focus as “they are a source of growth, wellbeing and prosperity for the whole human kind”.

Secretary General Thomas Greminger said that the digital revolution is already beginning to shape the way we live, work and govern ourselves. “Its impact is not confined to specific countries. The transformation will have huge implications and we should enter this discussion with an open mind and a willingness to manage these changes in a positive way.”

Greminger added that the OSCE can be a platform for embracing technological change and steering it toward a future that reflects common objectives and values of the participating States.

“Challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are not easy to balance,” said Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities Vuk Žugić. “The impact on economic security could potentially be disruptive if the technological change does not deliver on its promises. We cannot afford to have the digital gap become yet another dividing line in the current regional and global scenario.”

The 2018 Economic and Environmental Forum is devoted to the topic “Promoting economic progress and security in the OSCE area through innovation, human capital development, and good public and corporate governance”.

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Economy

Global Migration Can Be a Potent Tool in the Fight to End Poverty Across the World

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Global migration has lifted millions out of poverty and boosted economic growth, a new World Bank report finds. But destination countries risk losing out in the global competition for talent and leaving large gaps in their labor markets by failing to implement policies that address labor market forces and manage short-run economic tensions.

Large and persistent differences in wages across the globe are the main drivers of economic migration from low- to high-income countries, according to Moving for Prosperity: Global Migration and Labor Markets. Migrants often triple their wages after moving to a new country, helping millions of migrants and their relatives at home escape poverty. Destination countries often benefit as migrants fill critical roles, from advancing the technological frontier in Silicon Valley to building skyscrapers in the Middle East.

Despite the lure of higher wages, rates of migrants as a share of the global population have remained mostly unchanged for more than five decades, even as global trade and investment flows have expanded exponentially during this time. Between 1960 and 2015, the share of migrants in the global population has fluctuated narrowly between 2.5 and 3.5 percent, with national borders, distance, culture, and language acting as strong deterrents.

Highlights of key findings from the report include:

-Migration flows are highly concentrated by location and occupation. Currently, the top 10 destination countries account for 60 percent of around 250 million international migrants in the world.

-Surprisingly, concentration levels increase with skill levels. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are home to almost two-thirds of migrants with tertiary education. At the very peak of talent, an astonishing 85 percent of all immigrant Nobel Science Prize winners are in the United States.

-Education levels of women are rapidly increasing, especially in developing countries, but opportunities for career growth remain limited. As a result, college educated women from low and middle-income countries are the fastest growing group among immigrants to high-income countries.

“The number of international migrants continues to remain fairly modest, but migrants often arrive in waves and cluster around the same locations and types of jobs,” said Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank Senior Director for Development Economics and acting Chief Economist. “Better policies can manage these transitions in a way that guarantees long-term benefits for both citizens and migrants.”

The report recommends various policy measures to ensure the benefits of migration are shared by host and immigrant communities for generations to come. Key among them:

-Effective migration policies must work with rather than against labor market forces. For example, where there is large unmet demand for seasonal work, temporary migration programs, like those in Canada or Australia, could address labor market shortages while discouraging permanent undocumented migration.

-Quotas should be replaced with market based mechanisms to manage migration flows. Such tools can pay for the cost of government assistance to support dislocated workers. In addition, the most pressing needs of the labor market can be met by matching migrant workers with employers that need them the most.

-Creating a pathway to permanent residency for migrants with higher-skills and permanent jobs creates incentives for them to fully integrate in the labor markets and make economic and social contributions to the destination country.

“We have to implement policies to address the short term distributional impact of migration flows in order to prevent draconian migration restrictions that would end up hurting everyone,” said Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Director of Research at the World Bank.

The report argues that migration will be a fundamental feature of the world for the foreseeable future due to continued income and opportunity gaps, differences in demographic profiles, and the rising aspirations of the world’s poor and vulnerable.

“The public debate over migration would benefit from recognizing data and research,” said Caglar Ozden, Lead Economist and the lead author of the report. “What this report tries to bring to the debate is rigorous, relevant analysis to support informed policy making.”

Moving for Prosperity: Global Migration and Labor Markets is the latest in a series of Policy Research Reports that comprehensively review the latest research and data on current development issues. The new report presents the key facts, research, and data on global migration gathered from the World Bank, U.N., academia, and many other partners.

You can read the full report and accompanying datasets, based on extensive existing literature.

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Economy

Sweden well ahead in digital transformation yet has more to do

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Sweden’s efforts to embrace the shift to digital have been a key driver of economic growth in recent years, yet more needs to be done to get remote areas of the country online, bring digital technology to small firms, upgrade skills and meet security and privacy challenges, according to a new OECD report.

OECD Reviews of Digital Transformation: Going Digital in Sweden finds Sweden is among the top OECD countries in deploying digital technology across households and business, with widespread Internet use across the country and narrower digital divides by age, education, income and firm size than most countries. The availability, quality and affordability of high-speed Internet in Sweden is among the best in the OECD.

Sweden’s economy has the highest share of value added coming from information and communication (ICT) technologies of OECD countries and is among the top ten exporters of ICT services. Use of digital technologies has helped Swedish firms to integrate into global value chains in manufacturing and move up the value chain to focus on high value-added services like product design and marketing. Sweden is also a leader in the Internet of things.

While Sweden is on a solid path to reach its goal of having 98% of households and firms connected to 1 gigabit per second Internet by 2025, it should now focus on enhancing co-ordination among national, regional and local broadband deployment strategies and  expanding networks in sparsely populated areas. The use of digital technologies by people with lower levels of income or education could be further increased. Sweden also lags other countries in opening up government data to citizens.

On the business side, while digital tools are widely used in Swedish firms, most are slow to seize opportunities to analyse big data. There is also a limited supply of advanced ICT skills in the Swedish workforce. The report also notes that as an international hub of scientific and technological leadership, Sweden should strengthen its policy priorities and publicly funded programmes for digital innovation.

Concerns about digital security are higher among Swedish people than in many other OECD countries. The government should promote a clear vision of digital security risk management as an economic and social responsibility of all and provide stronger policy leadership.

The report is the first in a new series of OECD reviews that will analyse development of the digital economy, review policies and make recommendations to improve performance as part of the Organisation’s Going Digital project.

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Economy

Finding Jobs in South Africa: Two Actionable Ideas that Work

MD Staff

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Recent studies show that better job search planning and including a reference letter from former employers, significantly increases responses from potential employers in South Africa.

The World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab and Jobs Group, in collaboration with researchers from Middlebury College, Stellenbosch University and University of Cape Town, conducted several experiments investigating the roles of skills certificates, referral letters, and providing better information about workers in the labor market.

One experiment involved the design and testing of an action-planning tool to promote greater job search intensity. The tool layered on top of a 90-minute career-counseling workshop offered by the government of South Africa helped unemployed youth follow through on their job search intentions and adopt a more efficient and effective search strategy. Improved search strategy led to job seekers receiving 24% more responses from employers and 30% more job offers. Five to 12 weeks after the workshop and action planning, these job seekers were 26% more likely to be employed.

A second experiment, tested the impact of reference letters from former employers. Including a reference letter in a job application increased the likelihood of getting a response to an application (by 60%). Interestingly, reference letters may be even more important for women job seekers. Women with better reference letters were more likely to receive responses from employers and interview requests (the same was not true for men). Women who received reference letter templates were approximately 50% more likely to be employed with employment rates doubled for those who used the letters.

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