JOB creation is posing a crucial challenge to policy-makers here and in other parts of the world. Efforts to create jobs must come to grips with what can be called the emerging technological age. The new technological age, simply described, has a strong bias against simple labor and in favor of higher quality labor.
In the data analysis and word processing field alone, a few computers now do the work of vast accounting and secretarial departments. The availability of various computer-assisted designs now requires a smaller number of assistants. Taking down stenographic notes by secretaries now seems no longer necessary as office heads prefer to write down their letters directly with the use of the computer.
Even more pronounced is the change in the communications field. The mobile phone has replaced legions of telephone operators and telegram transmitters, not to mention unwieldy telephone boards and the clutters of wires that accompany telephone and telegraph connections.
Prominently noticeable is the birth of so-called business-process outsourcing (BPO), for the preparation of business correspondence, medical transcription, sometimes scientific research work—an affirmation, incidentally, of good old Ricardian comparative advantage.
There is now an increasing array of activities done “online”— banking and marketing activities, especially. Changes in ways of doing things are taking place in less conspicuous ways in other sectors of the economy.
One characteristic of many of these activities is that they can be done at home, especially those in the BPO fields. The phenomenon of people doing office work at their individual residences is common these days.
Another characteristic: many of these activities are gender-neutral. Who cares whether the medical transcriber is a male or a female? In the medical field the assumption that the doctor is a male and the nurse a female has been stood on its head.
Understandably, these technological changes are giving rise to demands for a different kind of labor. Required now are information-technology trained individuals capable of turning in solid performance in the new fields.
What is the significance of all this to policy-makers in and out of the government? It is that jobs of the old technology, once lost, are lost forever. They may reappear but now require new skills, which means laid-off workers may reclaim their jobs only if they have upgraded their training. Of course, truly new jobs will appear, reflective of the technical requirements of the new age.
The response will obviously have to be aimed at the provision of the appropriate supply of labor. Concretely this will require the exposure and training of workers and workers-to-be in the new talents and skills required by the technologically oriented economy. The new K to 12 educational program and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority type of technological training seem appropriate to the new circumstances.
Nothing in this overview of developments implies any downgrading of the importance of investment in the generation of employment. Investment is an indispensable factor in the production process. Without it one has to think of production processes as they were prior to the Industrial Revolution.
Employment generation, never an easy matter even in favorable circumstances, can be accelerated if employment policies factor in the features of the new technological age.
Image credits: Benjo Laygo