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Who Pays for the Reskilling Revolution?

MD Staff

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The cost of reskilling the 1.4 million US workers likely to lose their jobs as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and other structural changes over the next decade will largely fall on the government, with the private sector only able to profitably absorb reskilling for 25% of at-risk workers. This is the finding of a World Economic Forum report published today.

The report, “Towards a Reskilling Revolution: Industry-Led Action for the Future of Work”, finds that it will be possible to transition 95% of at-risk workers into positions that have similar skills and higher wages. The cost of this reskilling operation would be approximately $34 billion.

However, the report also finds that, of the 1.4 million workers at risk, the private-sector could only profitably reskill 25%, or about 350, 000 workers. For the rest, at current rates of reskilling time and costs and foregone productivity, it would be more cost-effective for businesses to replace them with workers with the correct skill-set.

The ability of the private sector to profitably absorb the reskilling burden could rise to 45% of at-risk workers if businesses collaborate to create economies of scale. The report also finds that the government could reskill as many as 77% of all at-risk workers, with a clear return on investment coming from increased tax returns and lower social costs such as unemployment compensation. For the remaining 18%, the costs outweigh the economic returns to government, while for 5% a similar-skills and higher-wage pathway is not available.

With 18% of all at-risk workers – 252,000 people – unable to be profitably reskilled by either business or the public sector, the report’s findings imply that governments must consider expanding welfare and social support, paying for negative-return reskilling due to its societal returns, and lowering the costs of reskilling and retraining through incentives to and collaboration with the private sector and educators, including apprenticeships and online learning.

The question of who pays for reskilling as hundreds of thousands of jobs become displaced over the next decade as a result of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies – such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics – and other structural factors, is increasingly important. In a 2018 report entitled The Future of Jobs 2018, the World Economic Forum calculated that, while 75 million will be displaced worldwide through automation between 2018 and 2022, as many as 133 million new roles could be created. However, this assumes that it will be possible to provide workers with the skills to fulfil these new roles, highlighting the need for reskilling at-risk workers as well as ongoing upskilling for the majority of workers.

“Even with a conservative estimate, the reskilling challenge will cost $34 billion in the United States alone and only a part of it will be profitable for companies to take on by themselves, even if they were to think long term. The question of who pays for the stranded workers and for the upskilling needed across economies is becoming urgent. In our view, a combination of three investment options needs to be applied: companies working with each other to lower costs; governments and taxpayers taking on the cost as an important societal investment; and governments and business working together. This week at the Annual Meeting, we are exploring and building coalitions around all three,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum, and Head, Centre for the New Economy and Society.

“Towards a Reskilling Revolution: Industry-Led Action for the Future of Work” is published in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group and Burning Glass Technologies.

From planning to delivering skills

Separately, the Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap 2020 coalition, launched in 2017 with a target to reskill or upskill 10 million workers by 2020, has already secured pledges for training more than 17 million people globally. Of these, 6.4 million people have already been retrained. The initiative uses a virtual hub to capture measurable commitments from leading companies to train, reskill and upskill workers. The hub also serves as a repository of best practices and case studies.

Additionally, over the last quarter five industries began to explore the viability of making their reskilling and upskilling efforts more efficient and impactful. At the Annual Meeting, they are expected to launch sector-level collaborations to help prepare their workforces for the future of work.

To complement this business-led approach, the Forum is initiating and expanding national public-private collaboration task forces to prepare countries for the future of work. This approach has been rolled out in four economies, including Argentina, India, Oman and South Africa, with the goal to expand geographically to 10 economies by the end of 2020.

To accelerate the integration of more women into the labour force, particularly in the high-growth sectors of the future, the Forum’s Closing the Gender Gap national public-private collaborations are expanding their coverage to eight countries, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Panama and Peru.

A long-term vision for skills

While reskilling and upskilling are critical short-term needs, the current mismatch between education and employment is the result of a system in which proxies for skills rather than skills themselves are taught, recruited, promoted and rewarded. Proxies such as the brand names of educational institutions and employers replace tangible evaluations of the quality of the skills held by employees. This system is not viable in an era of rapid labour market transformations brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is under further pressure from social inequalities, which tend to become locked-in for those lacking the highest-value proxies for skills.

A new study, “Strategies for the New Economy: Skills as the Currency of the Labour Market”, published in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson, suggests how a skills-based system may be created through changes in the learning ecosystem, the workforce ecosystem and the broader enabling environment. It covers 10 strategies, including building, adapting and certifying foundational, advanced skills and adult workforce skills; realizing the potential of educational technology and personalized learning; mapping the skills content of jobs and developing a common taxonomy; and designing portable certifications. Such actions would have a positive impact on both labour market efficiency and socio-economic mobility.

The view from the C-suite

“Companies need to start to prepare for the future of work now, and up- and reskilling will be the biggest challenge in this endeavour. The good news is that there is a positive business case for up- and reskilling for many disrupted workers from a company and government perspective,” said Rich Lesser, Global Chief Executive Officer, Boston Consulting Group, USA.

“The shift to a skills-based economy presents individuals with the chance to compete for employment based on what they can do for a company. At the same time it gives companies a tremendous opportunity to more efficiently design work and organize resources,” said John J Haley, Chief Executive Officer, Willis Towers Watson, USA

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Economy

EAEU, MERCOSUR and Integration

Anna Sysoeva

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The transformation of international trade has significantly picked up pace as of late. Sanctions and protectionism (and its rather aggressive variant used by the United States) prompt states to create alternative institutions and integration alliances based on the principles of liberalism, equality and openness.

Acting together is the only way for states to withstand such a disturbance of the balance in the global trade system and satisfy their interests.

Integration initiatives emerged a long time ago and are now developing successfully: the global geopolitical space is permeated with a network of regional integration groups. The number of such groups is growing, and their trade ties are becoming deeper.

Compared to Europe, the Asia Pacific, Latin America and other regions, the post-Soviet space has far less experience of the type of integration known as “international economic integration.”

The situation is certainly changing. The founding of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and its work towards concluding free trade agreements have introduced adjustments to existing trade relations. However, since the EAEU was founded in 2015, only one full-fledged free trade agreement was signed with Vietnam.

The EAEU and MERCOSUR: Institutional Grounds for an Alliance

The agreements concluded with Vietnam, China and Iran suggest that the basis for a new stage in moving into Eastern markets has been formed.

The EAEU’s trade cooperation with MERCOSUR, the world’s third largest and third most influential trade bloc, could become a very profitable strategic alliance. The market potential of Latin American countries is tremendous, and it is unused today.

If mutually beneficial terms of cooperation are achieved, such an economic alliance could have every chance of becoming a mega-bloc and, most importantly, the embodiment of a new model that is based on best and more advanced practices.

The EAEU’s trade and economic dialogue with a Latin American partner could occupy a unique place in the structure of global economic cooperation as a whole. It would make it possible to overcome certain limitations in inter-country economic cooperation and use regional “economies of scale.”

Together with regional integration alliances, this structure could serve as the missing link in the “South–South” cooperation line and resolve the so-called “gaps” in the cooperation balance. The problem of the global economy we are now part of stems from the sharp transition from bilateral economic integration to mega projects. Countries do not have enough time to find their bearings and amend their national legislation, and this often slows down the dialogue on establishing global institutions.

The Advantages of Cooperation between the EAEU and MERCOSUR

An integration dialogue between MERCOSUR and the EAEU would allow the EAEU to solve the task posited to all its member countries, one that is similar to MERCOSUR’s own strategic goal of finding its rightful place in the so-called “sixth technological order” where leading positions will be held by countries that actively use the “ten emerging technologies”.

In this regard, the specific features of MERCOSUR, whose member countries have historically never received large-scale technology transfer (as happened, for instance, in the United States) and consequently formed a “secondary” model of innovative development that is mostly associative and fragmentary and has large areas of stagnation, are of particular interest in terms of building business ties with EAEU companies.

The advantages are mutual.

The Eurasian Economic Union started developing contacts with Latin American countries back in 2012. The first arrangements on cooperation were achieved with Chile, an associate member of MERCOSUR.

Later, the Commission signed a memorandum on cooperation with Peru, also an associate member of MERCOSUR.

In late 2018, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and MERCOSUR signed a memorandum on cooperation in trade and economy on the side-lines of the MERCOSUR summit in Montevideo (Uruguay).

Promising Areas of Cooperation

The FTZ+ trade agreement format would appear to be the most suitable institutional basis for deeper economic collaboration between the EAEU and MERCOSUR. Such an agreement would involve in-depth integration, emphasizing reduced non-tariff barriers, an improved regime for trade in services and investments, measures to increase trade, regulatory alignment and standardization, and, most importantly, identifying promising areas of cooperation and creating special conditions for individual projects

Without dwelling on such obvious contractual components as zero duties, customs cooperation, technical barriers in trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, etc., issues are proposed for consideration that may be debatable as far as the readiness of the parties to implement them is concerned, yet at the same time constitute particularly advantageous areas for mutual development.

Both the MERCOSUR and EAEU countries are interested in developing the following areas: marine research; bioeconomics research; renewable energy sources; etc.

Given the common interest in developing the above-stated areas, the strategic tasks of tapping the markets of MERCOSUR for EAEU businesses may be implemented by building similar institutional mechanisms.

The issue of technology transfer (TT) and innovations becomes ever more pressing, both on the bilateral level and on the level of global trade relations. With increasing frequency, this item is being put on the agenda of global forums such as the United Nations (UNCTAD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

MERCOSUR countries are also actively working in this area. Initially, the general policy on technology transfer was based on the South Korean model, with innovations introduced in major companies.

The trade aspects of e-commerce should clearly become a fundamental issue. The greatly increasing data flow in the cost and supply chain and the rapidly growing digitization of global trade that now involves millions of customers make this issue a priority.

Vectors of Collaboration between the Leading Countries in the EAEU and MERCOSUR

The research activities of individual MERCOSUR countries, for example Brazil (the organization’s economic leader), creates opportunities for implementing joint investment projects (for instance, in the mining industry).

“Joint manufacturing of machine tools in Russia is another promising cooperation project that in which Russia is greatly interested.”

However, some experts note that the positive dynamics in the export of technological solutions is very weak due to the outdated contractual framework for cooperation between countries. The present scale of the presence of EAEU companies and the pace at which joint projects in innovations are developing are linked to the low level of state support for exports, unstable partnerships that in many cases stem from the absence of a long-term legal basis, and inconsistencies between collaboration plans and programmes and real results.

Conclusion

Summing up, we can confidently state that the integration cooperation between the EAEU and MERCOSUR could become an example of a radically new cooperation format based on a FTZ+ trade agreement. The advantage of such cooperation will lie, among other things, in a “technological step forward compared to territorial and exclusive regionalism.”

It is apparent that the integration of integrations requires the creation of a contractual framework for the emerging trade and economic alliance. Such a framework could develop a network of promising joint projects buttressed by independent institutional platforms for each strategic area, which will create a micro-level foundation and thus boost the macro-level potential of the integration alliance.

Fitting such collaboration formats into the traditional order of the functioning of FTZs might shift the emphasis from trade liberalization to building a foundation for integration and cooperation.

A “pin-pointed” search for possible production collaborations and bilateral investment initiatives could become an effective way for pooling the parties’ efforts. The basis for deepening existing projects and launching new ones is already in place: major Russian companies are working actively in joint projects being carried out in individual Latin American countries and the Caribbean: Rostec, Rosneft, INTER RAO UES, Power Machines, KAMAZ, Russian Helicopters and VEB.

Ultimately, the performance results of such an intercontinental trade and economic project will depend on how effectively the strategic bilateral projects that are intended to ensure cooperation synergy and liberalize mutual trade are coordinated.

First published in our partner RIAC

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Economy

Gender equality cannot wait in Asia and the Pacific

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

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Equal rights have been demanded and promised for generations, but last year a shift occurred in the women’s movement. Across Asia and the Pacific and around the world, women demonstrated to condemn a status quo which continues to deprive too many women and girls of respect and equal opportunity. This is a momentum we must maintain to achieve gender equality in Asia and the Pacific, an ambition which lies at the heart of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Education is key. It remains the passport to better jobs, higher incomes and improved life chances. Progress in our region has been made and rightly celebrated, but equal numbers of boys and girls enrolled in education belies high dropout rates and lower attendance and attainment levels for girls. This is particularly acute in rural areas, where in many countries only very few girls from poor households complete secondary education. Improving health care coverage, particularly sexual and reproductive health, is another imperative. Again, women living in rural and remote areas are particularly disadvantaged, contributing to high maternal mortality rates in parts of Asia and the Pacific and teenage pregnancies with enduring societal consequences.

This inequality of opportunity contributes to placing women at a considerable disadvantage in the labour market. Over the past thirty years, female labour market participation has declined in Asia and the Pacific, where only half of all women are economically active. This is in part because women are relied on to give up to six hours of unpaid care work a day, stifling careers and ambitions and undermining equal political representation. Corporate leadership positions remain the preserve of men. Today, for every ten men in work in the Asia-Pacific region there are only six women, the majority of whom are trapped in precarious, informal employment, characterised by low wages and hazardous working conditions.

With such considerable barriers remaining to gender equality, the United Nations Economic Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific is supporting a bold coordinated response, which must include gender responsive budgeting. This approach ensures the different needs of women and men are part of budgetary decisions for the public expenditure which underpins the design of government programmes and activities. This is particularly important in shaping the provision of social protection, education and health care and the design of infrastructure. By placing a greater focus on women’s needs, gender responsive budgeting has been shown to make a major contribution to reducing the burden of unpaid work and enhancing women’s opportunities for leadership in the workplace and in political and public life.

Gender responsive budgeting could also be used to create a more supportive environment for women entrepreneurs who are proven catalysts for change and a reliable means of increasing women’s share of the workforce. Women employ other women, who in turn, are known to spend more on their families, helping give children a healthy diet, a solid education and reliable health care. As potential GDP gains from gender equality in work and society are enormous in our region, up to eighteen percent in parts of South Asia, this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

Yet this entrepreneurial potential is currently frustrated by a lack of access to finance and ICT tools for business development. Seventy percent of women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises are underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Women-owned enterprises are consistently smaller and concentrated in less profitable sectors. Innovative technology could be deployed to reduce gender barriers and promote digital inclusion. This requires support for businesswomen to mainstream ICT across business operations, make their financial management more robust and their outlook more responsive to new technologies.

Put simply, women’s empowerment requires action on all fronts. It begins with equal opportunity to education and health care services, delivered through targeted investments, better attuned to women’s needs. Supporting women entrepreneurs with better access to finance and ICT can then keep women in work, enabling their businesses to innovate, remain competitive and expand. These businesses are essential incubators for future generations of women’s leaders, but will also contribute to a more gender equal environment today. Women’s empowerment cannot wait in Asia and the Pacific.

UN ESCAP

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Radical Markets- Workable Ideas

Osama Rizvi

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We are living in a very interesting age. Call it a phase. A phase; where long cherished ideas of globalization is coming under threat, where Xenophobic attitudes are taking hold, where the right-wing has gained a lot of wind under them and seems ready to fly. Trump’s election, Brexit and anti-immigrant hysteria, all point towards a disturbing trend which looks as if gaining popularity and acceptance. In such a phase the ideas and concepts, utterly novel in their nature and perfectly workable if implemented, presented in the book Radical Markets gives us a hope.

Let’s start with the monopoly problem of property. Private ownership of a property while have certain advantage still cause many problems. For instance, the example, that any single person can sabotage a project if he decides to value his property at exorbitant prices after knowing it comes under a government project, for instance Hyperloop, is very common. Commenting on the “allocative” and “investment” efficiencies of a property the writers present an elaborative system to optimize both of the above mentioned functions. Surprisingly abbreviating into a very apt name, COST, the Common Ownership Self-assessed Tax, provides us with an alternative to the normal, usual taxation system. Moreover, possessing a self-regulating mechanism COST assures that the person uses the property for the best purpose. Avoiding the intricate details here, one can consider it as a system where-in one’s property would be listed on a national/international database with its price along with the option of anyone able to buy it at a click. If the property is very important for a person he might keep the price at such a level so that nobody can easily buy it however, at the same time he will be paying a handsome amount of tax on the declared value (a detailed description regarding the basis of the taxation is given in the book) which should bring in the most optimal level of pricing. Too much of a price and he ends up paying a lot of tax, too little and someone else might get it.

Not only this but the above concept can also be applied to personal skills such as for doctors, engineers and others.

Other ideas include Visa for Individual Program (VIP) which might prove to be very useful to curb xenophobic attitudes. The proposal includes setting up such a system where-in an individual, for example from U.S., invites a computer scientist here in Pakistan, and vouchsafe for these immigrant while he works at the company that the person in U.S. was able to find and share his salary with this man. Such a win-win situation might help to address many questions and grievances of people from both side of the world.

One of my most favorite and a truly radical idea is that of Quadratic Voting. Democracy, of-late, is under threat all over the world. Populism is gaining momentum and rabble-rousers are seizing the opportunities. One of the major reasons is that somehow, at some point, like globalization, democracy has failed to deliver. Problems like “majoritarian cycling” make matters worse. At times, majority can trespass on the rights of minorities. To quote the example from the book let’s suppose there is a society that has a certain plant due to which the utility bills have reduced. However, there are some in that society who due to certain health problems suffer due to that very plant. In case of a traditional voting process i.e. 1 person, 1 vote (1p1v) the majority would easily win however, for that particular class of society it is a matter of life and hence immensely significant. Quadratic Voting focuses preference and intensity of preference instead of a for and against approach. In such cases a minority can win over a majority.

To conclude, all of us, especially policy-makers around the world should consider, brainstorm and try to implement these ideas, albeit, at smaller scale, for the sake of experimentation, deducing results, suggesting improvements and omitting errors, if any.

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