Technology, will robots take our jobs?

19May 2016
Crispin Gerald
The Guardian
Technology, will robots take our jobs?

Technology is a fundamental catalyst for development in any country since it cuts across many development sectors infrastructure.

International Labour Organisation ILO Director for Research Department Raymond Torres

Technology also contributes directly to the growth of the country’s economy by facilitating industrial production and creating internal market for the produced goods.

However, technology advances at a very fast pace, so fast that governments, businesses and workers alike are all struggling to keep up and many fear for their jobs. Machine technology is expected to replace humans in thousands of jobs across various professions including journalism, law, doctors, accountants, librarians, insurance and financial analyst to mention but a few.

According to the International Labour Organisation ILO Director for Research Department Raymond Torres, the current slowdown in employment growth may intensify, reflecting the ongoing effects of the technology tidal wave that will see robots and automated processes replace humans at an accelerated pace.

“Others believe that new technology will offer significant new job opportunities which will outweigh any negative employment impacts as happened in earlier phases of capitalism,” he said.

“The ability of the world economy to create enough jobs depends crucially on the policy response to new technology, demand shortage and other major factors such as the opportunities associated with the greening of the economy,” the director went on to say.

He detailed that, in several advanced economies, the number of workers receiving wages and salaries under a long-term employment arrangement has declined. A growing number of workers, who in the past would have been employed in companies as wage earners, are now working on their own.

The Director said, in emerging and developing economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the growth rate of wage and salary employment has also slowed down significantly.

“Technology has not only transformed work patterns making lifetime and full time jobs less prevalent, it has also changed the nature of the tasks performed by employees,” he detailed.

“The redefinition of our traditional understanding of the employment relationship is posing challenges to labour market institutions on how to guarantee adequate levels of coverage and protection for these different forms of work,” he said.

“Many existing systems of social protection do not fully cover workers with non-standard forms of employment, even when the legislation guarantees social security to non-standard workers, the level of de-facto coverage is reportedly lower than for workers with standard employment contracts,’ he added.

Director Torres said, the growth of globalization has brought about new production patterns, more companies competing both locally and internationally along with these changes a growing number of countries are opening their markets to trade investments and capital flows.

“Production is increasingly organized through global value chains with an increased financial role, significantly impacting the real economy, productive investment and income distribution,” he elaborated.

“The world of work is facing a major transformation, it is crucial for policies to embrace change with a view to improve decent work opportunities,” he said.

“The boundaries of employment, work and enterprise are moving, often driven by new technology, thereby raising important policy issues,” he pointed out.

He said the world is unable to create enough decent jobs to reduce under employment and meet the job needs of over 40 million people entering the labour market every year. Global employment growth has stalled at a rate of around 1.4 percent per year since 2011.

There are some who strongly argue that labour market regulations have adverse effects on employment growth, causes increased temporary, part-time or informal work, and leads to higher unemployment especially among the youth who are worst hit.

ILO Country Director Mary Kawar said, ILO believes that governments, employers and workers are the agents of change who will take the country towards the future.

“The main challenges that Tanzania still suffers is existence of high youth unemployment rates,’ he noted.
According to the 2015 International Labor Force Statistics (ILFS), youth unemployment in Tanzanians aged between 15-35 years was 11.7 per cent. Recent rate figures show that there are 40,000 jobs available in the formal sector for the 800,000 job seekers.

“However, Tanzania has been doing quite well in the economic sphere, it has had one of the highest economic growth rates in East Africa for several years running,” she but noted that the economic growth has not created more formal jobs and the informal economy remains overwhelmingly unregulated.

“Moreover, inequality has been increasing with concentration rather than the distribution of wealth,” she noted.
The Director advised that Tanzania, under its new leadership, should rethink and discuss such challenges in an inclusive manner.

United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative Alvaro Rodriguez said “poverty anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere”.

“This vision is true today and puts forth the notion of social justice. Justice in that each citizen needs to have equal opportunities in obtain education, skills, work, a living wage and a decent life,” he said.

“Tanzania is targeting to become a middle income country by 2025, it is unfortunate that the country’s economic growth has not been consistent with high rate of poverty reduction nor human development,” the UN official added.

He said Tanzania has not failed to raise productivity in key sectors like agriculture which employs a large number of Tanzanians, approximately 80 per cent of the population.

“Today, majority of Tanzanians are still involved in low productive informal jobs which are insecure and hardly provide a living wage,” Rodriguez noted.

“Unemployment is high and growing amongst the youth especially young women. The Integrated Labour Force Survey (2014) cited that 11.7 per cent of youth are unemployed,” he said.

Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Prof Elisante Gabriel urged youth to invest their time in exploring skills in ICT if they are to compete in the growing digital revolution that threatens availability of jobs.

He urged young entrepreneurs to add value to their products and observe standards if they are to qualify for the international market He also urged them to shake off their tendency to depend on the government to do everything for them and rather look for opportunities around them themselves.