Members of the Independent Liberation and Allied Workers’ Union demonstrate against high unemployment on March 23, 2021 in Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)
Remote working, digitization and automation have accelerated during the pandemic, changing the future of work. Young people, however, need to feel good about their jobs in order to thrive.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Covid-19 has taught us that things can change in an instant. So how well are we preparing young people for a rapidly changing job market?
Almost overnight, the Covid-19 pandemic transformed our reality. A radical change has taken place in the way we work. For the privileged few, work environments have shifted from air-conditioned office spaces to home offices. Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by video conferences and seminars have become “webinars”.
Social media was inundated with annoying virtual meeting videos and memes and the infamous “Please mute your mic” slogan.
This came with some advantages, such as increased flexibility and savings on fuel costs, but the disadvantages were isolation, increased workload, and loss of occasional interactions such as those of the water cooler and coffee breaks – the inconvenience resulted in an increase in the number of people. suffering from burnout while having other mental health issues.
The future of work is changing rapidly. A 2021 report from McKinsey, exploring the post-pandemic economy, found that Covid-19 has accelerated three work-related trends: remote working, digitization and automation.
The study, which focused on China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, found that:
The potential for remote work is higher in advanced economies, but only 20-25% of workers could work remotely three to five days a week on a long-term basis;
E-commerce has grown two to five times faster than before the pandemic; and
There has been a general increase in the use of robotics, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence (AI).
While there are still many unknowns, solid conversations are already underway, exploring what the workplace of the future will look like and how the company can prepare for it.
As the host of this year’s Nobel Prize Dialogue, the University of Pretoria recently brought together local and global experts – including Nobel Prize winners – to explore this topic. The impact on young people was at the heart of the conversation.
Learn for the future
The President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, stressed the need to invest in youth, as Africa has a predominantly young population.
Akinwumi acknowledged that automation, artificial intelligence and the introduction of new technologies will lead to the loss of some jobs, but conversely, new jobs will also be created and young people must be equipped with the skills to fill these roles.
“First, we need to make sure our labor market is requalified. Second, we need to make sure we give people technical and vocational skills as well as lifelong learning, as labor markets keep changing, ”Akinwumi said.
The importance of lifelong learning was echoed by Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian National University. “Lifetime opportunities will be essential. We cannot assume that what you have learned as a young adult will be enough for a 50 year career, ”he said.
The workplace is changing and higher education is changing too.
Vice-Chancellor and President of Murdoch University in Australia, Eeva Leinonen, noted the increase in online learning spurred by the pandemic. As well as institutions being forced to adopt online and possibly blended forms of teaching and learning, the popularity of short courses such as Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) has exploded.
While this has, in a sense, democratized access to higher education, Schmidt cautioned against the global shift towards “training over education” which could lead to a shortage of thinking skills. criticism needed to solve the world’s most complex problems.
He argued that research and research-oriented universities are still vital, but could be excluded from the education market if they lose their relevance.
For Leinonen, access to education “regardless of origin” is vital for the future of work.
In South Africa, the Fees Must Fall protests are an example of the barriers created by the high cost of education. The pandemic also exposed South Africa’s deep digital divide: Students who had access to laptops and Wi-Fi were better placed to complete the academic year than students who did not. High data costs were (and still are) a huge hurdle.
Conversely, the pandemic has also accelerated teaching and research innovations at South African universities. For example, the University of Johannesburg embraced the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) by introducing an advanced online degree in real estate that uses gamification as well as 3D renderings and simulations to make course content more interactive.
Although the focus is increasingly on 4IR, 2010 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Christopher Pissarides, said it was imperative for students to develop good social skills to thrive in the new world. work. “Robots and other machines are not very good at interacting directly with people. They know how to obey orders. Even in the hospitality industry, I wouldn’t want my host to be a robot, ”said Pissarides.
Some work is best done in person
As the McKinsey report states: “The pandemic has demonstrated that much more work can be done remotely than previously thought, including sales visits to companies, legal arbitration and lawsuits, visits. at the doctor’s, classroom learning, real estate tours and even expert repairs to the most sophisticated machines made using virtual reality headsets. “
The study also found that some technically feasible remote jobs are best done in person, for example, teaching school children, conducting business negotiations and training new employees.
According to the American professor and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, technological progress could entrench inequalities in the labor market.
“The jobs we create for those who are less educated will be more exploitative of how Uber and Lyft are engaged today,” he said. “Power imbalances will make the work of inferiors even less satisfying.”
Stiglitz believes that there is a “failure in the system” in that most companies do not put the well-being of their employees first.
He warned that technological advances would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. This is of particular concern in a continent like Africa, which is grappling with a deep digital divide. Experts argued that governments must ensure that adequate infrastructure is in place and that there is affordable connectivity and data as well as universal broadband.
Pissarides criticized jobs in the odd-job economy such as email services and food delivery.
“It’s not a real job with good prospects and good protection,” he said.
In the odd-job economy, large companies choose to hire casual workers and labor brokers for short-term commitments.
Pissarides said governments should start regulating the odd-job economy. He used the example of Spain, where a new law was passed in mid-May, giving delivery companies 90 days to hire construction workers as regular employees.
“We need to address the question of what Covid, with digitization, is doing at the bottom of the job market. Their situation is not improving at all, despite the fact that the technology is advancing. “
The odd-job economy has been further boosted by the change in consumer behavior towards online shopping. A 2021 study by World Wide Worx found that South Africa’s total online retail growth in 2020 was 66%, bringing total online retail revenue to South Africa. South to R30.2 billion. The fastest growing categories, aside from data and airtime top-ups, are clothing, at 56%, and groceries, at 54%.
During the hard lockdown, South Africa’s leading e-commerce store, Takealot, increased revenue by 41% despite selling items the government deemed essential.
What the young people had to say
Magazine Ngoepe, associate researcher at Kandua, a new South African start-up platform, said that among the positive changes he has seen in the job market include: increased focus on mental health and happiness of workers, and discussions on diversity, equity. and inclusion that are embraced by executives and companies that leverage technology to increase worker productivity (eg, the freedom that remote working brings).
“I like the fact that we are freer to take ownership of our work and to express ourselves creatively as we wish.”
As more millennials enter the workforce, Ngoepe believes companies should make an effort to pay entry-level employees better wages, provide money management advice, and regularly upgrade skills and competencies. technology-related tools.
Nokwanda Khanyile, research assistant at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said remote working eliminates aspects of community and humanity that were present in a face-to-face working environment. She found it a difficult adjustment.
“You always need a community at work. I think it’s important ”.
South African masters student Tim Hodgson, who is studying online at a UK university, said businesses need to adapt to the fact that young people want to feel needed, engaged and making a difference.
“I think the need to make a difference and to leave a legacy has become more work-related in this generation,” he said.
In addition, young people know if the company in which they work is ethical, sustainable and environmentally conscious.
He sees future work environments as a hybrid of remote and face-to-face working, coupled with asynchronous work patterns that don’t rely on a traditional nine-to-five schedule. DM168
This story was first published in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168 which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.
More about this article: Read More
This notice was published: 2021-05-25 12:33:26