WITH all the gadgets of modern technology now in front of us—the cell phone, the iPod and the computer, among others—many of us have wondered how we survived those days when we had to make a long-distance call only to discover that there was no connection to that part of the country, or when we had to produce a document only to find that we had to type it out on Gestetner paper and hire a half-dozen persons to collate the pages, or when we had to count the number of words in the telegram we were sending because the cost of transmission was reckoned on a per-word basis.
Thank the engineers or whoever it was who made the electronic wonders possible, all we have to do now to communicate or prepare papers is whip out an iPod, touch it and do everything there. Today everybody is texting, has a Facebook account, or is on Instagram—how convenient, how inexpensive and how global.
Except that this awesome technology has a cost. How many telephone operators, typists, mimeograph operators, office assistants and messengers have lost their jobs? How many stores and shops have shut down, never again to reopen? How much investment has been lost? The new technology is extinguishing jobs, exacerbating unemployment.
But the new technology is creating jobs, as well—new jobs, jobs that require higher educational preparation. This is the new reality, and everybody—prospective workers and political leaders, among others—had better get adjusted to it.
The challenge to political leaders is greatest. There is no abbreviating the job-creation process. Promote economic development by increasing and accelerating investment. This is what will generate employment opportunities, spread them out to the larger labor force. Luring investment, whether domestic or foreign, requires careful planning, the building of infrastructure and the establishment of an enabling environment. Critical to this environment is peace and order, a functioning justice system, and a steady and consistent regulatory machinery.
Members of the community, in particular the working people, have a responsibility as well, that of preparing for the new job opportunities by acquiring responsive education. Experience will be helpful, but it may not be necessary to the new job openings. The business-process outsourcing industry, for instance, does not require experienced workers, only people with the ability to communicate in the English language.
From more industrially advanced societies, like the United States, we learn that jobs destroyed are never resuscitated. There are no jobs to return to by workers previously displaced. There are only new jobs to apply for and these require new skills, new abilities.
In the Philippines this historic change places a responsibility on the government whose mandate includes specifically the inculcation of education among the people. The educational system must be broadened and deepened to provide to the people the education they need to become productive members of society.
The hour is late, but there is still time to recognize the new technological reality and respond to it in a realistic manner.