The world of work is rapidly changing. The jobs of the past are more than likely not going to be the jobs of the future. Academics, futurist, economist and policymakers have all concluded that labour markets globally will undergo huge transformations over the next decade.
The primary driver for the shifts in global labour markets is technological advances, leading to increases in computerisation, automation and developments in robotics and artificial intelligence. Researchers have made bold predictions that these technological changes will result in increased global unemployment. Estimates of technological unemployment include:
- University of Oxford: 47% of workers in America are at high risk of their jobs being replaced by automation
- PWC: 38% of jobs in America, 30% of jobs in the UK, 21% in Japan and 35% in Germany are at risk to automation
- ILO: ASEAN-5 – 56% of jobs at risk to automation in the next 20 years
- OECD: 9% of jobs are at high risk
- World Bank: 2/3 of all jobs in developing countries are susceptible to automation.
We must consider to what extent will these technological changes impact Bermuda’s labour force. It is predicted that job losses will be heaviest in the following categories:
- office and administration,
- service and sale,
- manufacturing and agriculture
Blockchain technology is also predicted to have an impact on traditional financial sector jobs such as:
- translation, and
- legal assistance.
In addition to technological advances, Bermuda is also adversely affected by globalisation. Bermuda has experienced declines in the total number of jobs on the Island as a result of companies outsourcing jobs to lower cost jurisdictions. Over the past decade, jobs associated with call centres, HR, IT and accountancy departments all have been outsourced.
Job opportunities are expected to rise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs. Additionally, because Bermuda is experiencing a rapidly ageing population, the demand for jobs in the healthcare sector will also continue to rise.
Lower-skilled workers throughout the world have been able to take advantage of agriculture and manufacturing jobs, however, agriculture and manufacturing are the two smallest industries in the Bermudian economy, collectively representing about 2% of Bermuda’s total GDP. While these industries may be declining worldwide, there is a potential growth opportunity in these industries in Bermuda.
Consideration must be extended beyond the labour force. Rapid technological advances which displace workers can be catastrophic for Bermuda. Payroll tax, which is a tax on labour, accounts for 41% of total Government revenue; fewer jobs means fewer taxes.
Additionally, the decline in the workforce will also put a greater strain on overall economic growth. The call for an increase in the population is a sensible one, however, new jobs primarily in the demand areas must be created in order to avoid a further displacement of qualified Bermudian workers.
Is it possible for us in Bermuda to embrace a win-win approach to technological changes? I believe it is possible for us to embrace technological advances while safeguarding human advancement.
The Government has been very deliberate in its efforts to expand technical jobs in the economy as it is seeking to attract initial coin offering [ICO] and crypto-currency business to Bermuda through the introduction of regulatory framework. The Government must also be deliberate in ensuring that the population has the skillsets to compete for technology jobs.
In my 2018 Labour Day address, I called on the Government to develop a National Innovation and Technology Plan that will:
- promote advanced science programmes in our schools
- create incentive programs to encourage our youth to become scientists, engineers, and tech-savvy entrepreneurs
- teach innovation and entrepreneurship to everyone
- seed venture capital investments in new innovations
- support radical ideas that may disrupt the status quo.
The impact of technology cannot be ignored. It is critically important that we have a workforce with the skillsets to compete in the future. Individuals will need to commit to upgrading their skillsets as a matter of urgency.
Companies must commit to ensuring employees have access to technical training and development for new career opportunities. Technology will not just have an impact on the future of work; it will have a huge impact on the future of our society.