Sat, May 25, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Contemplating the future of work

By Ng Ming Shan 吳明珊

The ongoing US-China trade dispute has raised huge concerns for the global economy. Washington is planning to extend 25 percent tariffs on US$300 billion of Chinese goods, including electronic products, where Taiwanese firms are deeply involved in the supply chain. As nearly 20 percent of GDP comes from electronics exports to China, it is expected that there could be a 1 percent drop in economic growth in Taiwan for this and next year.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) earlier this month announced that Taiwan should put economic development on the right path, rebuild and upgrade value-adding industries to re-establish a strong trade relationship of free and fair trade with the US.

Tsai’s vision of replacing products manufactured in China to turn the nation into a major exporter of goods to the US requires in-depth consideration of investment and implementation strategies to cope with the manufacturing and business development trends in many other developed nations — in particular digital development and technological advances, such as automation, digital fabrication, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, distributed ledger technology, and information and communications technology — to improve industrial quality, efficiency, productivity, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

The WTO last year published a report saying that the way to do business is going to change dramatically over the coming years.

It is important for governments to enable international trade expansion and build up national capacity to manage the corresponding changes in the future of work, so as to reap the benefits in competitiveness.

According to a UN Conference on Trade and Development digital strategies survey conducted in 2017, investments in novel technologies should improve the enabling regulatory framework, digital standards, clusters and incubators for digital business development.

Digital infrastructure such as electricity supply and trade logistics, delivery, tracking and payment systems should also be included. This helps to reduce delays in the clearance of goods at borders, thereby lowering associated costs and improving competitiveness.

Development of technological advances should come along with advanced process management models, such as lean management and design for automation, to ensure business is efficient, effective and economical.

On the other hand, policies should improve people’s capability to continue working alongside technological advances to boost GDP and competitiveness. This assumes that people displaced by automation will find other types of employment by creating and learning new types of work.

The International Labour Organization in 2017 launched the Future of Work Initiative to understand and respond effectively to the major process of change in the world of work. This involves reconsideration and reform of organizational strategies, production processes and organizational forms in industries.

The initiative calls for a new human-centered approach that focuses on three pillars: Investing in people’s capabilities to adopt various transitions in their life course; investing in the institutions of work to ensure a future of work with freedom, dignity, economic security and equality; and investing in decent and sustainable work, and shaping rules and incentives to align economic and social policy and business practice.

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