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Regional development banks present study on technology’s impact on jobs

The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives discusses the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on labor markets across the globe

Rapid technological progress provides a golden opportunity for emerging and developing economies to grow faster and attain higher levels of prosperity. However, some disruptive technologies could displace human labor, widen income inequality and contribute to greater informality in the workforce. Tapping new technologies in a way that maximizes benefits, mitigates adverse effects and shares benefits among all citizens will require public-private cooperation and smart public policy.

That is one of the main conclusions of a new study, The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives, released today by four regional multilateral development institutions: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The study, which was presented at a seminar hosted Apr. 19 at the IDB in Washington, D.C., explores the potential impact of technology in global labor markets and identifies concrete actions countries can take to prepare for the changing nature of jobs and leverage the benefits of emerging technologies.

The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives analyzes the challenges and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics in what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Potential challenges include increased inequality and the elimination of jobs, as well as the high degree of uncertainty brought about by technological change and automation. The greatest opportunities come from gains in economic growth that can result from increased productivity, efficiency, and lower operating costs.

The study includes chapters focusing on how new technological developments already are affecting labor markets in each region.

In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the study notes that progress has been comparatively slow and uneven due to the varying penetration levels of information and communication technology (ICT) across countries. Nonetheless, the increased mobility and flexibility offered by ICT is changing the way people work, and it is demanding a new set of skills. Another trend is the growing number of people taking part in the gig economy, making the debate about informality in the region even more complex.

 “This publication reinforces the need to invest in Latin America and the Caribbean’s human capital, offering training in cognitive, digital, and socioemotional skills so that workers can successfully meet the challenges presented by new technologies in the workplace,” says Carmen Pagés, Chief of the Labor Markets Division at the IDB. “It’s also essential to rethink social security for the twenty-first century.”

The publication was launched at the IDB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a panel discussion featuring Luis Alberto Moreno (President of the IDB), Charles O. Boamah (Senior Vice-President of the AfDB), Takehiko Nakao (President of the ADB), and Suma Chakrabarti (President of the EBRD). They were joined by Susan Lund (Lead of the McKinsey Global Institute) and Pagés, one of the co-authors of the study.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.