The future of jobs: Opportunities and challenges in ICT-centric economies

12 Apr 2019 09:00h - 10:45h

Event report


The session was moderated by Mr Mehdi Mohammadi (Secretary-General of Digital Economy and Smart Technology Development Council, Vice Presidency for Science and Technology, Iran). He said that we are entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution and asked ‘What is the impact of automation and industry 4.0?’ According to him, regarding the transportation sector in Iran, the impact of automation is 50 percent, 19 percent in reasoning and decision-making. He also explained five key trends shaping the future of work: the millennial workforce, globalisation, new behaviours, new technologies, and mobility.

Mr Ekkehard Ernst (Chief Macroeconomic Policies and Jobs Unit Research Department, International Labour Organization (ILO)) started by asking if we should be afraid of artificial intelligence (AI). He highlighted AI as a prediction machine: expert systems in agriculture, AI in health care, autonomous cars, smart machines, AI and network management, and AI-driven research. However, he talked about how AI increases inequality, not employment. Therefore, he explained the consequences: rising demand for skills, job polarisation, winner-takes-all with AI, and granular discrimination (which enhances matching efficiency, but increases price discrimination and perpetuates historical biases).

Ernst also explained that we need to invest in emotional intelligence. He stated that automation and AI will accelerate a shift in workforce skills. He noted new forms of taxation to ensure protection: digital taxation, taxing public goods, digital social security, and profit-sharing arrangements. He pointed out how to maintain a level playing field through ensuring data portability, maintaining a conducive IPR regime, and treating data as labour. He added that a public infrastructure will also promote AI (through a digital infrastructure, and e-policy implementation). He said that AI promises large productivity and transforms capitalism. Finally, he noted that AI changes structural transformation. He underlined that delivery of policies can improve significantly and require significant scaling up of infrastructure.

Ms Janine Berg (Senior Economist, International Labour Organization (ILO)) explained the work done by ILO in the development of digital labour platforms and analysis of the future of work. She talked about work on digital labour platforms in Ukraine and said that it analysed the issues and policy perspectives. She emphasised the ILO Survey of Crowdworkers and said that workers spread across seventy-five countries. She mentioned the education levels in different regions and commented on a typology of tasks: online clerical and data entry tasks, online promotional activities, online writing and translation work, online AI and machine learning, and online content moderation. She further noted the huge role of human resources needed in order to use AI.

Moreover, Berg explained the motivation to undertake crowdwork: first, pay is better than in other available jobs; and, second, it complements pay from other jobs. She mentioned four main areas of concern: pay for the tasks, availability of work, unfair treatment by requesters, and lack of platform responsiveness to workers’ concerns. Concerning the issue of why we are not currently doing more crowdwork, she suggests that the majority of people say that the pay is not good enough. She also highlighted questions on autonomy and control in Ukraine and presented that 36 percent of clients request availability during certain hours, 85 percent pay a commission to the platform in order to work and 21 percent request availability outside of usual hours. Finally, she discussed the need of regulation of the work platforms on an international level.

Mr Mehdi Fasanghari (Director General of Strategic Management, Ministry of ICT of Iran) explained the labour component of the index: digital spending per worker, digital capital deepening, and digital employment. He mentioned the challenges that enterprises face in filling positions for ICT specialists. He also estimated employment growth due to growth in ICT capital. He pointed out the need of a good plan for the digital and ICT revolution and noted that there are many digital economic definitions on resource level, structural level, business model, etc.

In addition, he noted the scope of the digital economy in Iran: the broad scope (digitalised economy), the narrow scope (digital economy), and the core digital sector. He said that it is necessary to have a roadmap to utilise the next opportunities of the digital economy for the realisation of future jobs. He also commented on digital strategy by optimising the use of resources and infrastructures, ICT strategy (infrastructure and resources), and value creation. He talked about the drivers of the Iranian digital economy: the GAFA phenomenon, the Internet of Things in agriculture and education, and artificial intelligence.

According to him, there are numerous ICT sectors in Iran, namely, telecommunications, software publication, ICT products, and IT services. He presented a balanced score card perspective of digital economy promotion: digital financial growth, digital business growth, digital services, and digital infrastructures. They have goals such as: household access to broadband, share of converging value-added services, communication traffic transit capacity, and progress in establishment of a social security system.

Mr Mohammadreza Ghaderikarknai (Member of the Board, I. R. Iran National Post Company) explained his work on ‘Preparing the Workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. He said that technological advances in ICT are main drivers of the change positively affecting business growth. He added transformation of jobs as technological breakthroughs rapidly shift the frontier between work tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines and algorithms. He stressed that global labour is undergoing a major transformation.

In addition, Ghaderikarknai mentioned workforce trends for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as new specialist roles related to understanding and utilising the latest emerging technologies. He talked about the new roles in our digital era: data analysts and scientists, big data specialists, process automation specialists. He also spoke about ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality, initiative, critical thinking, and, importantly, emotional intelligence. He concluded with some questions: whether we need to prioritise automation or augmentation and whether or not to invest in workforce retraining.



By Gilles D. Bana