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The Global Preparatory Meeting for the 2012 Annual Ministerial Review (3 April 2012)
In his keynote address, Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared some startling information about the race against the machines, nexus between technology, employment and wages. According to him the tremendous growth in technology within the last decade has resulted in stagnation of job creation. Skill development, organizations and Institutions have not kept pace with the technological growth resulting in huge employment and income gaps. Current trends indicate that while those who are highly educated and technically skilled will be in highly paid jobs, those less skilled may be replaced by the machines. He warned of automations replacing human labour in the fields of health education and other areas like driving. He gave the example of a google self-driving car. In a jeopardy game IBM’s Watson (robot) was pitted against 3 of the best brains in US and won all the money! The 3 types of winners and losers in his estimation are high skilled vs unskilled or low skilled, superstars vs the rest of the world and capital vs labour. According to him current times are just forerunners of more “tragic” times to come! His response to the situation seemed to be to invest in education and skill training of youth especially in technology.
The representative of Germany brought out the role of relational skills in the generation of employment and expressed hope that technology will still serve human needs and not the other way around. Least developed countries also were worried about their future in the current development scenario.
Mr. José Antonio Alonso, Director, Complutense Institute of Foreign Studies, and Professor of Applied Economics, Complutense University of Madrida member of the Committee for Development Policy dwelt on the need for stable growth which is inclusive. He felt that the governments are faced with the challenges of balancing market flexibility with labour security, social security and a job creating growth. For him segmentation of the labour market and gender disparity within it is cause of concern. He supported small and medium enterprises as a way out of the current crisis while calling for institutional reforms especially of the financial institutions.
This session was followed by a Panel discussion on “Promoting the implementation of the Global Jobs Pact”. Mr. Aurelio Parisotto, Senior Economist, Policy Integration Department, International Labour Organization Office for the United Nations, New York said that rising protests in over 180 countries is a result of increasing new pockets of poverty and polarized income inequality resulting from job recession. He recommended policy action on global coordination for global aggregate demand, policy agenda based on short-term/ long-term needs, creation of community based jobs, collaboration between micro economies and labour market to reduce income inequalities .
Ms. Eve Crowley, Deputy Director, Gender, Equity and Rural Employment, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, focused on 4 main areas: Policy requirement, gaps in technology and resources, challenges and learning.
(1)Policy requirement: Though 20% of the national GDP comes from the rural economy in developing countries, rural people live in working poverty. There is also a concentration of child labour in the rural areas. Hence, the need for social protection for the rural poor.
(2)Gaps in technology and resources: Increase investment in agriculture productivity. By addressing gender gaps in agricultural resources 150 million more people can be lifted out of poverty.
(3)Challenges of unemployment, under employment and low labour productivity call for social protection, occupational security and strengthening the negotiating power of the people.
(4) Lessons learnt :Addressing multidimensional poverty requires a multipronged approach of:
- increasing employability through improved access to schools and quality education coupled with life skills and job training
- Using differentiated strategies for rural and urban areas
- Providing market access along with infrastructural facilities
What is needed is formation of a UN task force to coordinate action, identify best practices and improve upon them; sustainable development goals committed to decent work; multi sectorial coordination at the country level between, land ,agriculture and finance ministers; cross sectorial policy coherence and collaboration between agriculture and rural employment
Mr. DegolHailu, Senior Adviser, Poverty Practice, Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme, reiterated that lack of coordination between employment and education policies is the reason for low elasticity of employment growth. Another reason is extractive sectors like mining are not labour intensive though contributing to 60% of the GDP. Deindustrialization in some countries has resulted in income loss leading to poor nutrition, mental trauma, reduced spending in health and education and depletion of household assets and social exclusion especially of women. He shared how timely intervention by UNDP in Sierra Leone and Georgia helped transform the situation. He too recommended social protection as a necessary safety net.
In his closing remarks, Mr. ShaZukang, undersecretary general for economic and Social Affairs, summarized the import policy messages that have emerged from the preparatory meetings thus far as follows.
- There is a consensus on strong need for job creation.
- More coordinated global action is needed to stimulate employment and decent work which means
- Better policy coherence on fiscal, monitory, labour, education and social protection fronts focused on growing economies and creating jobs especially for the youth;
- Governments taking a balanced approach by building momentum for growth while repairing their finances and tackle rising inequality for lasting social and political stability;
- Prioritse education and training opportunities to enhance productive capacity, decent work and social protection by maximizing public –private investment in infrastructure, developing human capital, protecting the most vulnerable and transitioning to a more sustainable trajectory of growth .
Elsa Muttathu pbvm