DUBAI: Governments around the world have a "golden opportunity" to create new jobs in the aftermath of COVID-19, which has driven profound changes in businesses, working patterns and accelerated the emergence and development of new economic sectors.
That is according to a new report published by the World Government Summit Organisation (WGS) in partnership with PwC Middle East, which indicates that the devastation caused to the global labour market by the pandemic, including the loss of millions of jobs and 8.8 percent of total working hours around the world, is giving way to new opportunities to "unleash the skills economy".
The report titled "Unleashing the Skills Economy: How Governments Can Turn Labour Market Threats into Opportunities in the Digital and Green Age," states that "through dual shifts – and towards a greener and more digital economy – estimates suggest that around 30 percent of jobs are at significant risk of automation and this risk may be much higher in some countries".
The report estimated that "the application of digital solutions and artificial intelligence to green transformation can contribute up to US$5.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 4 percent."
The report also indicated that "upskilling progress remains slow, and does not reach large segments of society", stressing that "once the current skills gaps are closed, increased productivity will add at least US$6.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030 – with more benefits expected as skilled workforce continues to innovate further".
Commenting on the release of the report, Mohamed Yousef Al Sharhan, Deputy Managing Director of the World Government Summit Organisation, said, "The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about profound changes, whose effects are still evident in the global economy, as well as in the patterns and nature of work and concepts of creating economic value. These effects have changed our perception of jobs and their role in securing supply chains and achieving food, health and technical security in societies."
Al Sharhan added, "The World Government Summit Organisation, as a knowledge platform, focuses on addressing international issues of concern to governments and providing decision makers with studies and research that help shape a knowledge-based future, through which new types of sustainable jobs can be produced in line with the next phase of economy."
Randa Bahsoun, Government and Public Sector Partner and Labor, Employment and Skills Leader at PwC Middle East, said, "Jobs and opportunities created by the green and digital twin transitions will require new skills, with people needing to adapt to working alongside digital technologies. The common denominator of the new sectors emerging from the twin transitions is skills. Countries that are quicker to develop their 'skills economy', one where people and technology complement each other to innovate, will have the competitive edge and will be able to create a stronger chance of achieving inclusive and sustainable development."
She added, "Collective action is needed to make an impactful and sustainable change. Uniting governments behind skill-centric visions for the economy and embracing new ways of governing, whilst challenging, is certainly achievable."
The Skills Economy: Governments have a Golden Opportunity The report stressed that policy makers have a golden opportunity to launch the skills economy, "which enables citizens to improve their skills through a well-functioning labour market and accessible training systems, with businesses having the right tools to invest in innovative sectors of the economy".
The report, which notes the potential for "skills (or supply-side) policies to help increase the supply of skilled workers", advised governments "to use skills policies through alerts, incentives, financial support, or legal and regulatory requirements (such as higher reporting of the skills gap) to increase skills".
It also called for "reducing information asymmetries and coordinating interventions by facilitating cooperation between the public and private sectors, enabling employers to signal skill needs, and training service providers to respond to those signals".
How Governments Can Unleash the Skills Economy The report stressed governments’ ability to "play a transformative role in addressing the imbalance between supply and demand through industrial skills and policies". It further explained that governments can play an active role in many areas: first, by defining and disseminating a skills-centric vision for economic development with lifelong learning, and secondly, by activating this vision.
The report recommended "developing a skills-focused vision of the economy," saying that "developing a skills economy, where people’s talents are used alongside technology to achieve more sustainable prosperity, includes policy questions that go beyond the narrow scope. Skills must also be linked to good job opportunities through integrating skills development into broader development strategies (such as industrial development, local economic development, youth employment)."
The report emphasised the importance of government leaders creating resilient and collaborative environments to possess the right skills and institutional support to be deployed effectively. Moreover, it highlighted the significance of adopting the principles of agile governance such as "goal-oriented governance that favours results, data-driven governance that helps adapting to changes in evidence and indicators, and policy innovation that rapidly helps forming flexible policies and working collaboratively."