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Jobs in the future

I’ve been writing about how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is threatening massive job displacements not adequately offset by the new types of jobs it would bring about. Particularly destabilizing is the speed by which technological change is happening, to the extent that students choosing their intended careers today on the basis of current demands could face a totally different labor market by the time they graduate. One estimate says that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t even exist now.

Those in less advanced countries, including we in the Philippines, cannot simply dismiss the threat as being applicable only in advanced economies at the forefront of technological change, and will take time to be felt in our own economies. With interconnectedness now seen across the global economy, dramatic shifts in the market for goods and services in large economies can be immediately felt in the markets for labor and inputs in small economies on the other side of the globe. It is thus crucial for students and educational institutions alike to well anticipate the nature of future demands in the job marketplace arising from rapid changes in the world economy.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report last year on “The Future of Jobs,” based on a survey of chief human resource officers and other senior talent and strategy executives of top corporate global employers. It was motivated by the observation that most occupations are undergoing a fundamental transformation accompanying changes in the industry sector. Some jobs are threatened by redundancy while others are growing rapidly, even as existing jobs are also going through a change in the required skill sets. The report noted significant job displacements expected from the advance of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, although demographic and socio-economic forces could provide an offsetting job creation effect. On the latter, it cites the increasing importance of younger consumers, rising middle classes, and the rising economic power and aspirations of women in the world’s emerging markets. Underlying all these, increasing geopolitical volatility is seen as the biggest threat to employment and job creation at the global level.

Respondents in the WEF study expect significant reductions in office and administrative jobs and moderate declines in manufacturing and production jobs in the period leading up to 2020. On the other hand, strong employment growth is expected in architecture, engineering, and computer and mathematical work. Little change is expected in business and financial operations, sales and related work, construction and extraction activities. Very high growth is expected in computer and mathematical jobs, particularly data analysts, and software and applications developers, not just within the information and communication technology industry, but across the wide range of industries and services.

Having focused on large industry respondents, the WEF study appears to have overlooked the expansion of certain jobs related to aging populations in industrialized economies. While it saw this more as leading to reduced demand for various products, there would be a rise in demand for services and products addressing peculiar needs of the elderly. Most obvious would be in health services and general care requirements of the aged population. But the senior populations of today comprising the postwar baby boom generation have also been described as more healthy, more educated, more wealthy, and more active. It has been cited, for example, that the average age of a Porsche (sports car) buyer is 58, and the sale of electric guitars peaked in Japan just as the first baby boomers started retiring.

As for caregiving and retirement services, we in the Philippines are well equipped for that. Machines will never substitute for the caring nature we are known for as a people. There are still many things machines can never take away from us humans, and someone quipped that until machines can begin cracking jokes, we need not worry about them taking over.

cielito.habito@gmail.com

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