The fourth industrial revolution, which will encapsulate the use of artificial intelligence (A.I) and the internet of things (IoT) will leave lasting changes in the world of work. As individuals adjust their preferences and expectations regarding work, so must organizations. Across the world, several occupations, particularly low-skilled employment, are decreasing in terms of the number of people employed because of changes in technologies used. In some regions, as many as three in five jobs are at risk of automation. However, as the world of work experiences a paradigm shift, this is an opportunity to change the existing systems for the better.
Creating Opportunities out of Adversity
Considering the changing circumstances, a significant portion of the workforce is gravely concerned about their employment and income prospects. One way to address this income insecurity is through regular unconditional transfer payments to citizens, but discussions regarding universal basic income (UBI) have been inconclusive. There is evidence that implementing this policy would result in desirable social outcomes, although UBI may not be a pathway to resolving poverty and inequality. Further, implementing UBI may be administratively intensive and impractical. It is unsurprising that even younger workers will probably become more risk-averse and prefer to keep the jobs they have rather than become serial job hoppers.
Trends in remote and freelance work were already, and are continuing in, gaining traction. However, not all roles and occupations can be fulfilled from home, but a significant portion of the workforce has been forced to work remotely out of necessity. It is likely that the workers that had adapted to working from home are set to continue the trend. Participation in the gig economy was already growing rapidly in the last decade, but integrating remote work and the technologies required to make it work are likely to fuel it further. Unfortunately, not all in the workforce are prepared for such changes.
These changes in the world of work mean that there will be higher levels of unemployment, job insecurity and freelance workers. Self-employment is perceived as a riskier career option, but many individuals are likely to face limited options. Education and skill enhancement are a possible pathway to addressing this nearly inevitable employment crisis. Regarding reskilling, individuals younger than 40 are more likely to dedicate efforts towards learning new skills, although the difference in willingness to take part in training to improve professional skills between the under- and over-40s is not significant in certain countries.
Solutions and the Future of Jobs
Addressing future crises will be a multi-institutional effort, and it requires flexibility to be successful. Businesses that aspire to survive and thrive in this shifting environment will require an employee base that can adapt to an adverse economic climate. An effective way to prepare employees for this undertaking is to not only create an environment that incentivizes employees to enhance their skill set, but to create learning experiences that are memorable, inclusive and encourage co-creation. Businesses would need to design these learning experiences after identifying skill gaps and based on the knowledge collected in the relevant industry. Further, considering the transformation of the work environment to integrate remote and freelance work, artificial intelligence and automation, technology should be part of this learning experience.
The most practical implementation of this skill-enhancing initiative is through e-learning. Not only is e-learning easier to implement — due to the limited adjustments required by the participants — but it will also use the infrastructure already in place to facilitate remote work during lockdowns. The other requirement for handling such a crisis would be the provision of social support systems through state institutions. E-learning, with the right partnership, can easily be implemented and will probably prove to be the future of jobs.