Future of Work, Skilling & Mobility

29 Mar 2023

Over the past decade, a set of ground-breaking, emerging technologies have signalled the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). To capture the opportunities created by these technologies, companies across the world have embarked on a reorientation and transformational drive, leveraging digitization and technology.

Impacted by the pandemic, the pace of technology adoption is expected to remain unabated and may accelerate in some areas. 

Globally, Industry 4.0 is gaining popularity due to rapid improvements made in the cyber-computing capabilities in the last few decades. “Work” as we know it is undergoing a major transformation in three spheres: a) the tasks being performed, b) the makeup of the workforce, and c) the location of work. Largely driven by four specific technological developments: high-speed mobile Internet, AI and automation, the use of big data analytics, and cloud technology, these are expected to have the most significant impact on employment figures within the global workforce.

The digital transformation process has impacted many sectors. Technology has already begun to change the way we organize tasks into jobs. This change is being driven by frontier technologies such as AI, IoT, Big Data, and Blockchain which are being used to create a sustainable value chain and improve efficiency and productivity. 

Future of Work and Transformation in Employment Scenario 

According to the World Economic Forum, though 85 million existing jobs will become obsolete by 2025, 97 million jobs are expected to be created due to the growth of AI and technology.

This indicates that newer jobs will overshadow the job loss. It further states that the division of labour between people and machines is expected to continue to shift toward machines, especially for repetitive and routine tasks. The jobs of the future are expected to be more machine-powered and data-driven than in the past, but they will also likely require human skills in areas such as problem-solving, communication, listening, interpretation, and design. In the near future, roles that leverage distinctively human skills, such as Customer Service Workers, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development, People and Culture, and Organizational Development Specialists as well as Innovation Managers, are expected to grow.

To prepare for the employment scenario that has been impacted by the future, the entire skill ecosystem will need to be reoriented and reorganized. There is a critical need to start skilling our potential workforce with a view on the emerging technologies and the future of work.

For the industry, crafting a sound 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.

With the growing availability of remote work infrastructure, the workforce will have the flexibility to perform their duties from beyond major cities, while still complying with legal requirements. Employers play a crucial role in the skilling and mobility of the workforce by adopting a “skills first” hiring approach, providing vocational training opportunities, and participating in social dialogues. Employees too need to take accountability of their skilling by proactively engaging themselves in skilling initiatives at regular intervals.

Parallelly, it is also crucial to focus on SMEs and their supply chains in the context of continuous education and upskilling. Investing in reskilling and upskilling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will not only enhance their productivity, but also improve their long-term viability.

Two other areas which require additional thrust are: driving higher participation and growth of women-led enterprises and skilling platform economies. These areas continue to remain as an important pillar in ensuring all-round growth, and therefore, making concerted efforts to develop this segment of the economy will be crucial.

Skill training also requires significant investment in terms of infrastructure and digital assets. The number of people who have access to the internet has grown dramatically during the past several years. Yet, several marginalized social groups continue to receive inadequate access to such resources. Ensuring digital accessibility helps improve the digital fluency. It would therefore be important to emphasize on the efforts to improve digital infrastructure and employ infrastructural upgrades to deliver skills to reach the grass roots levels through a blended education model.

History is testimony to the fact that a nation will be provided an opportunity to shape the world economy, perhaps, once in its lifetime. With a 1.3 billion population, where 65% of the population is below the age of 35 years, India’s economy is booming, and it is now the world’s 5th largest economy. India, the IT capital of the world, is host to the G20 Summit this year.

India is the world’s leading exporter for IT and IT enabled services, and digital payments, and is now looking to develop in areas including solar, wind and green hydrogen production. With its young population, India also has the largest number of diaspora members, spread across 38 countries. Additionally, India can also leverage its young population to become the world’s workforce especially in areas like healthcare, agriculture, tourism, and technological services.

Indian industry will need a skilled workforce to be competitive at a global level and consequently, the Indian youth will need the opportunity to be skilled, to find meaningful employment.

Way Forward

With jobs becoming more and more standardized across the world and required skillsets becoming more alike, this is the time for countries to come on a common platform and discuss the ways ahead in terms of developing the workforce for the future, and how they can collaborate and create a vibrant skilling ecosystem. 

The future beckons collaborative employment exchanges and global skilling programs ecosystems. Government participation is equally necessary to protect workers and prevent informal work by enforcing labour laws and regulations. Policymakers must create alternative forms of work that are viable alternatives to informal work and provide individuals with access to the formal economy.

This article was first published in Partnership Summit: Collaborative Frameworks.

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