The Future Of Work: How AI Will Hit The Developing World

Robotization, AI and other technological advances will change the nature of work in the coming decades. How will it play out in poorer parts of the world?

In Argentina these last two years, there has been a reduction in industrial jobs in city suburbs
Eduardo Levy Yeyati


BUENOS AIRES To bring the debate on the future of work to the reality of the developing world, one should distinguish between three dimensions of the debate that are sometimes confused.

The first has to do with the relationship between technology and labor displacement. The displacement of work comes before technological unemployment, in a transition between the past and the future. Here, traditional tasks and occupations are replaced by technology and new ones created, though without entirely compensating for the traditional positions that are eliminated. In principle, workers are not strictly tradable or recyclable, especially an adult worker with medium or low-level qualifications or those workers for whom relocating to seek work has significant costs.

This first dimension — the shift in competencies and positions — suggests that even if technology did not reduce total demand for work hours, it could create persistent pockets of unemployment, and if this were concentrated in less qualified workers wage inequalities are bound to deepen.

The second dimension emerges from the relationship between technology and labor practices. New technologies create greater segmentation in productive time and space, challenging the paradigm of the wage-earning employee working for eight hours in a factory or office. And since for historical reasons, most social benefits are tied to formal, full-time employment, the new work formats are left unprotected and bereft of social services. This inevitably increases the wealth and social divide between salaried employees and independent workers.

The third dimension is both the most feared and perhaps most imminent: it is the relation between technology and unemployment, and the risk that jobs (occupations/work hours) will not only be changed, but reduced. This is the world of technological unemployment, which techno-optimists like John Maynard Keynes speculated about almost 100 years ago, or more recently pessimists like the "futurist" Martin Ford. There are reasons for supposing that at the end of the road, total demand for employment (meaning paid work, rather than any work), will fall because of continued advances in automation.

So far, this is the debate on the future of work in advanced economies. But how does it apply to a developing country like Argentina?

Workers demonstrating in Buenos Aires — Photo: Claudio Santisteban/ZUMA

Firstly we have three disadvantages vis-à-vis advanced economies: less human capital (fewer educated workers and an education system that is less pertinent to job market demands), more informal work, and relatively low-quality public services.

If technology seems harsher with less qualified workers (because their tasks are more easily replaced and they find it more difficult to adapt and compete for remaining jobs), then we are less well-equipped to face this change. If technology replaces salaried workers, our bigger informal sector and a flawed social protection system place us at even more of a disadvantage.

The future will not build itself.

In Argentina these last two years, we have seen a reduction in industrial jobs in city suburbs, compensated in other parts of the country with an increase in independent or informal work opportunities. But our education system is a one-way road that takes you from kindergarten to university (though only a minority of students, mostly from better-off families, actually complete this trajectory), without any safety net offering intermediate training options for the great majority of youngsters left without enough fuel to complete this long trip.

We must include that debate around the future of work, at least from our particular perspective in the developing world, must go beyond simply weighing scientific advances on the job market.

The issues here range from reforming the education system in line with a changing work model (a permanent learning process consisting of shorter phases interspersed in time) to moves to protect independent work (like better access to credit or new forms of professional associations) the passage of tax reforms that reduce labor costs.

Lastly, there is the fundamental issue of how we should divide work if there is less of it. Or more generally, how can we guarantee an inclusive society that distributes the fruits of technological productivity? Can it be with better public services, or through universal minimum revenue allocations that compensate for a reduction of work hours?

The debate on the future of work is not a catharsis on the dystopia of oppressive machines and mass unemployment, but a debate on how to use technology to build a better future. This future will not build itself. The future of work as a central theme of the next G20 meeting in Argentina is a perfect opportunity to give the issue the attention it merits.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!