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Expanding digital economy is not a threat to workforce of today

It is the general belief that fast advancement in technology is adversely impacting employment level both in developed and developing countries thus lowering or stagnating individuals incomes and worsening inequality of incomes status all over the globe, but at the same time more obvious facet of technological advancement is that growing digital economy all over the globe has created peculiar work place environment where traditional employer and employee relation based on process of production/economic activity in an organization through full time labor team is gradually changing into crowd of individual entrepreneurs being ‘on demand workers’ to accomplish an assignment or in other words employer and employee relationship in economically rich countries and also in emerging economies is speedily shifting from full time employment to short term freelance relationship.

The findings of research work conducted in this regard by Arun Sundararajan, Professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University advocate for sharing economy resulting in “end of employment and rise of crowd based capitalism in which most of the workforce shifts from a full time job as a talent or labor provider to run a business of one – in effect a micro entrepreneur who owns tiny slice of society’s capital”. Very positive impact of this strategy if it gains ground would be reduction in wealth and income inequalities as it will be total break from concentration of wealth environments in vogue all over the globe since last fifty years.

Advancement in digital technology has no doubt created millions of jobs, but artificial intelligence and advancement of robot technology of course for the time being in economically advanced and emerging economies will end up with displacement of complex human activities such as driving car and in future planes etc. No doubt use of digital technology in present day to day commercial, industrial and banking businesses even in developing countries has not impacted adversely their employment level, but in years to come with their static status of human development in learning and adaptation of new technologies will definitely enhance unemployment of unskilled and semi skilled labor force. Hence it is being vehemently felt particularly in low and middle income developing countries to promote quality education. Better and more sustained educational system embracing new technologies in all faculties of education can also connect disadvantaged rural youth with work opportunities in the cities. This will also facilitate reducing social imbalances/inequalities and create unity among all segments of population.

For countries moving towards reforming their educational system comprehensively must focus on improvement of digital and infrastructural connectivity and also must take initiatives to connect with rest of the world.

Need is being felt for creating smart educational institutions, which instead of giving weightage to four years post secondary education in different areas must devise digital based curriculum of vocational training, which enables students to make mid career transition towards diverse areas of entrepreneurship to get self employed. In India number of non-employed (doing freelance jobs) has increased considerably.

 

Findings of research work conducted at IMF reveals that in economically advanced countries various innovative projects are underway or on the grounds in fields like co-working space and defence of digital platform workers where governments and organizations particularly in France and Austria show inclination towards encouraging digital labor as an strategy to bring job to places that need them. Young people in these countries are taking part in these initiatives and these new ideas are being welcomed by labor movements/ labor unions as digitalization of economy through these unchartered areas of workforce utilization will provide equal opportunities and congenial working environment to all workers particularly to millennial of today.

As such as depicted in above said IMF survey almost 40 percent of the non-employed or independent workers are comprised of millennials. The advent of digital platform work opportunities have enabled workforce to commercialize their personal assets to put them to more productive use. These include transportation platforms like Uber, which originated in US but now has net work almost in all developed and developing countries including Pakistan. Similarly Airbnb is an online market place and hospitality service enabling people to lease or rent out short term lodging like hotel rooms, motels and hostel beds etc. It also originated in US, but now has spread to South and Far East Asia (particularly in Malaysia) and also Australia.

In emerging economies also digitally oriented entrepreneurship is growing fast. In this regard India is making a significant contribution. This country has strong reputation in technology and engineering and major part of its population is using internet and consequently both at micro and macro level, the finance, e-commerce, insurance and fashion sectors are also transforming. Digital and on line business has enabled entrepreneurs to know their customers and their needs and also to adapt to unpredictable internal and external shocks to business.

In context of Pakistan use of digital technology has made a quite headway in promoting financial inclusion through mobile banking and branch less banking.

According to State Bank of Pakistan report branchless banking grew by 21 percent by the close of year 2016 and by now number of accounts has increased to 16.9 million showing transactions worth Rs110 million during the last quarter of 2016. Easy paisa, Jazz cash, UBL Omni and similar initiatives by MCB and Allied Bank are main players in this field. Some of the Microfinance banks operating in the country are also making use of mobile/digital banking for tapping non-banking population. As such a sizeable number of under privileged population is able to have access to banking credit for their business needs and accordingly number of self employed persons handling micro and small businesses has increased significantly in recent years.

Further like some of the emerging economies like Brazil, India and Vietnam where emergence of various digital platforms as discussed above have created independent workforce, the potential micro entrepreneur in Pakistan can initiate transportation platforms strategy and may go into transport and trucking business by using fleet of autonomous cars and trucks (as ‘CAREEM’ has taken initiative in Karachi) and also can go into accommodation business by providing short term accommodation in their homes on commercial basis replicating Airbnb strategy as mentioned above. In view of such interventions in majority of developed and fast growing economies to support and facilitate their young workforce to survive effectively as non-employed/independent work force in environment of fast digitalization of number of economic activities, unemployment should not be a concern for millennials of today.

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