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Future Skills: A new Credit Suisse Corporate Citizenship Initiative

Almost 200 million people are looking for work worldwide, while automation sows fear of stagnating wages and disappearing jobs. Manuel Rybach, Global Head of Corporate Citizenship & Foundations, Credit Suisse, in a conversation with Guy Ryder, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), about work, the gap between skills needed and skills offered, and the digital industrial revolution. 

Two hundred million people don't have work today. Meanwhile, full employment by 2030 is one of the UN's sustainability goals, which requires 600 million new jobs in the next ten years, according to the ILO's development agenda. How could that be possible? 

That is a real challenge, making them green and decent is probably an even greater challenge. We are facing the twin challenge of repairing the damage caused by the global economic crisis and creating quality jobs for the tens of millions of new, young labor market entrants every year. Job creation will rely heavily on a healthy environment and the services that it provides. 

What does this mean specifically? 

24 million new jobs could be created globally by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place. Service sector jobs will be the main driver of future employment growth, while agriculture and manufacturing employment continue to decline. Strong policy efforts must be undertaken here to boost job quality and productivity in the service sector. 

What are the main obstacles to getting there? 

Imbalances persist between skills offered and skills needed. While a few countries integrate environmental sustainability and skills policies, others have not developed or utilized their skills institutions to prepare for the green transition. To ensure a just transition to a green economy, the ILO recommends developing a legal framework and also dealing with social issues and decent working conditions in green sectors.

You like to emphasize that technology is neither good nor bad but needs to be managed. How? 

The digital economy must be a sustainable one and it must be built on decent work which gives humans dignity. The question here is how we can keep the human dimension in a world of work run more and more by robots. Globally, one third of employers surveyed complain of not being able to find the right skill sets to fill existing vacancies. There is the simple truth that the machines were and continue to be built by human brain and brawn. We need to anticipate upcoming technological changes and tackle the education and skills mismatch in labor markets. Adequate education and skills for countries at all development levels increase their ability to innovate and adopt new technologies. It means the difference between growth that leaves large segments of society behind and inclusive growth with a well-trained workforce willing to learn.

While in past industrial revolutions mostly blue-collar workers were affected, the current automatization revolution affects especially white-collar workers. What are the political and societal implications?

In contrast with previous disruptions, these include white-collar as well as blue-collar jobs. As some of the defining tasks of jobs are automated, certain jobs, such as those requiring repeated actions, will be lost. Work that is difficult to automate will gain more prominence for human labor, for example, complex tasks relying on high-level cognitive skills, soft skills and creativity. Policies in response to this transformation should be guided by new empirical analysis.