Learn more about market trends New landscape for education and employment
These are extraordinary times. About 8 weeks into the lockdown in major countries, four experts, leaders in their own fields, discussed the rapidly changing contours of employment and education in the context of the unprecedented socio-economic upheaval being wreaked by the pandemic.
Highlights from the discussion:
Public health, rather than technology, as a basis for structural change
Till COVID-19, the jobs shielded from AI and digital technologies were mainly ones that involve human interaction – care, hospitality, travel, creative industries etc. COVID-19 has shocked precisely these jobs. Now, increased automation will reduce reliance on social interaction, AND job creation in the sectors that involve human interaction will – at best – be delayed, as organizations rethink the way that they work. These structural changes will slow down the labor market recovery, and some of the shock is likely to be permanent.
An acceleration of existing trends? Or a radical new approach? Perhaps both?
In a world beset by uncertainty, a few existing megatrends have gathered more steam: flexible working and digitalization are two of them. The information and communication technology industries will get further boosted, and remote working becoming the new normal could increase the participation of women in the workforce.
There will also be a certain “de-globalization” as companies look more and more at local sourcing. The gig economy will survive, and thrive, but there will be far greater pressure to bring them under legislation and social coverage.
Skilling, up-skilling, re-skilling…
As the profile of unemployed people will change, so will the quest for sustainable employment solutions. This will require a massive amount of skilling, up-skilling, and re-skilling, as the unemployed seek access to different career pathways, and the employees retained within organizations grapple with dramatically changing job profiles. All these add up to calling for an unparalleled level of co-ordination between the education and employment sectors.
The education sector has 2 key challenges before it:
- Knowledge is now “free” and at the disposal of everyone – can universities and high schools differentiate themselves?
- If a large number of the jobs of the future do not exist today, how should students be taught?
Universities and high schools will have to reinvent themselves in terms of learning methods and application ideas. Prospective employees will probably need to bring to their future employers a “portfolio of skills” rather than specialist ones.
Read more on this topic in the interview with Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Laureate, Economics; Regius Professor, London School of Economics.
Meanwhile, growing inequality
At the time of the Salon, 2.7 billion people were in lockdown, of whom 1.6 billion worked in the informal sector, with the service sector suffering the most. Of the last 3 major crises, the current one has squeezed SMEs and freelancers more than ever before. Low skill workers have the most to lose from the crisis, especially with more labor displacing technologies coming in. As a result, inequality is expected to widen in the short to medium term, not only within countries, but also between Northern and Southern Europe, with Italy and Spain having been ravaged by the pandemic.
Fiscal policy as an instrument for change, rather than monetary policy
Companies will soon face a new reality where they must undertake significant restructuring and retrenchment. While monetary policy is likely to continue to keep interest rates at or near 0%, it is fiscal policy that will have a big role to play – in infrastructure spending, fostering greater co-operation between education and companies, and between companies and the labor market. It is imperative that governments offer real financial incentives to companies to encourage the idea of “lifelong learning” among employees.
This, too, shall pass? Glimmers of hope
There will be an uptick in private-public sector partnerships with many private investors already participating in the drive for change. The pace of innovation is expected to intensify, especially with many emerging markets having already started to seize new opportunities. In a world of many unknowns, Credit Suisse expects global growth to rebound in Q3, with China leading the way in Q2. This bases itself on the assumption that the second wave will be less severe.
This panel discussion was part of the first Credit Suisse Virtual Salon on the topic of “COVID-19: Unleashing the revolution of work and education.”