Increasing automation and digitisation in the workplace is gradually altering the quality and quantity of jobs. New skills are demanded and hence born, while older skills are becoming obsolete. The rise of newer jobs gives developing countries the opportunity to venture into newer market segments and compete with the bigger economies out there, but this also comes at a price of job polarisation, inequalities, and ineffectiveness of displacing existing labour into similar productive job structures.
Technological advancements, in many ways, have the power to disrupt the future of work and it is high time that developing countries, like Bangladesh, start considering this more seriously and ensure a smooth graduation-to-work transition for the upcoming youths.
According to Forbes, the two industries that will benefit from technological surges are the tech companies and healthcare industry. Cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will be the most popular subsectors. With more advanced solutions will arise the need for heavier skills, but considering the education structure and majors offered in Bangladeshi universities, all courses will need a reboot to incorporate practical and application-based learning over theoretical knowledge.
Furthermore, sharing technological dividends broadly in terms of jobs and income has also become a crucial issue, as stated by the International Labour organization. There are doubts about the ever-rising big data platforms that collect information on consumer behaviour and preferences, claiming this enhances efficiency of the economy. However, the question still persists whether the productivity gains are actually benefiting the society or are being consumed by the small number of dominant firms only. Additionally, jobs in manufacturing and parts of service sectors will continuously decrease while low-skilled and high-skilled jobs are going to be on demand. Unless effective transition policies and steps for acquiring relevant skills are implemented, many people on the verge of unemployment might be forced to accept lower-paying jobs, hence putting pressure on the wage of the low-wage sector. Eventually, middle-skilled earners will be pressurised to transition to low-wage manual work, reducing job quality and satisfaction.
The uncompromising impact that digitisation and automation will have on business is the risk of bolstering existing gender imbalances. According to one study, men are expected to recover from job losses more smoothly than women. Moreover, these alternative career opportunities for women are often found in the care sector, which is further expected to expand due to population ageing.
In developing countries, like Bangladesh, women are usually associated with caregiving industries and believe that automated and tech savvy jobs are more appealing for men. If this stereotype is not properly addressed, the future women of this country will suffer from significant unemployment, causing our economy to lag behind.
In 2019, Bangladesh exported $30.13 billion worth readymade garment (RMG) goods, making up more than 84 per cent of the total export of this country. Bangladesh has always maintained its lead in this industry due its over reliance on cheap labour and lower manufacturing costs, but with impending automation and digitisation comes obstacles that will increase competition with key players like Vietnam. Machineries will be replacing people and sustainable technology adoption will increase productivity and profitability.
Bangladesh, however, will also have to deal with the challenge of unemployment. Thousands of people migrate to Dhaka every day for the search of a better life. Many of them do not even get a proper job to survive and spend their days on roads. So, technology will sweep away everyone from their positions, landing them on roads and piling up on the already existing homeless people and beggars. Highly skilled people will be required to take up jobs of engineering and architecture to help Bangladesh compete on equal footing with the rest of the world.
The upcoming generation of youths have the power to address these problems. Bangladesh lags behind in terms of tech companies. Youths with their energetic spirits and creativity can establish their own cloud computing or software companies which will increase employment and boost the economy.
Youths can take the decision to stay back in their countries after graduation and do something fruitful for society. The way forward for Bangladesh is to implement policies, increase tertiary-level education quality and promote the zest of entrepreneurship among young minds. It is high time that creativity, innovation and leadership are valued for surviving the wave of fourth-industrial revolution.
The writer is a third-year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. She can be reached at email@example.com
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