19
December
2018
|
08:15
Europe/Amsterdam

A new look at 'work'

From left: Assoc Prof Tan, Dr Rutkowski, Mr Fung, Ms Suresh, Prof Hoon and Ms Ganesan 

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) at NUS held a dialogue with policymakers and thought leaders on 13 December which looked at the changing nature of work and how best to invest in human capital, the subject of the World Development Report 2019.

The session was moderated by Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap, Co-Director of the Asia Competitiveness Institute at LKY School, and featured speakers Dr Hartwig Schafer, Vice President, South Asia Region, The World Bank; Dr Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director and Head of Global Practice Social Protection and Jobs, The World Bank; Mr Michael Fung, Deputy Chief Executive (Industry), Chief HR Officer and Chief Data Officer, SkillsFuture Singapore; Professor Hoon Hian Teck, Professor of Economics and Associate Dean, Singapore Management University; Ms Vidhya Ganesan, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company; and Ms Trisha Suresh, Senior Consultant, The Economist Intelligence Unit.

The panellists spoke about a “new wave of uncertainty”, as the pace of innovation and technological disruption continues to accelerate and permeate all aspects of people’s lives. For societies to benefit from the opportunities presented by technology and innovation, they would need a new social contract centered on larger investments in human capital and social protection.

“Technology is changing the nature of work and it’s also creating new firms, creating new business models, and expanding job opportunities. Technology is also putting certain jobs at risk…Companies need to prepare for and invest in human capital and skillsets for the workers that they will need in the future. That means investing in education, that means investing in health, and so on,” said Dr Schafer.

He added that Singapore, which ranked first in this year’s Human Capital Index, has many lessons to share with other countries.

Technology is changing the nature of work and it’s also creating new firms, creating new business models, and expanding job opportunities. Technology is also putting certain jobs at risk…Companies need to prepare for and invest in human capital and skillsets for the workers that they will need in the future. That means investing in education, that means investing in health, and so on.

Dr Rutkowski expanded on this idea of new jobs and new skillsets, saying that work will become less manual and more dynamic, and require different types of skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Ms Ganesan grouped these new skills into Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Specialist, ICT Generic, ICT Complementary, and Higher Order Cognitive Skills.

“To wrap it all up, how you embrace the whole notion of lifelong learning, of independent work, the gig economy, of being agile…that would be the skill or mindset required,” said Ms Ganesan.

Audience members were keen to pick the brains of the panellists on everything from how environmental issues will affect jobs of the future, to ageism and skills matching, as well as what the government is doing to mitigate job displacement resulting from technology disruption. On this last point, Mr Fung assured the audience that Singapore is not resting on its laurels.

“With the disruptions ahead in the industry, we’re looking at skills cycles that are getting shorter and shorter, especially in the the ICT sector…the skillsets that are needed six months later are going to be different or obsolete. So we’re looking at how to make our systems more adaptive and more nimble and that requires extensive involvement of the industry, the private sector, but also individuals,” said Mr Fung.

Responding to a final question from an NUS Arts and Social Sciences student on the place of social sciences in such a technology-driven future, Dr Rutkowski said not to worry. “With more productive jobs, people will be earning more money and they need to spend that money on other things and services that they need, which will provide jobs in other areas. There is a future for those in the humanities because of the collective jobs with greater disposable income.”

The dialogue session was attended by some 160 participants from academia, as well as the private and public sectors.