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Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development

Work in the Age of the Knowledge Economy: Promising New Opportunities

Ibrahim Gharaibeh

By Ibraheem Gharaibeh, Jordanian writer and recent addition as a researcher to ARDD’s Renaissance Center

The World Bank has devoted its World Development Report to the nature of change in work in the years to come. World Bank President Jim Kim Young says we face an existential crisis regarding the future of work. Future jobs will need specific and complex skills and human capital will be more valuable than ever. The changing nature of work and the preparation of people for future jobs are the most difficult challenges faced by countries, societies, and markets.

But these transformations, despite their radical nature, carry new promises of well-being and a better life. If new technology eliminates existing jobs and work, they create new ones, but the skills needed to work change every day. New businesses require skills and abilities in critical thinking, cooperation, and continuous work. Educational and training institutions must change the nature of their work as well as their content.

The investment in education and training for future work begins from early childhood, when the ability to learn new skills is formed. If countries, communities, and families do not do anything important and real to educate generations, they lose their human capital and the most important element in building resources and businesses, especially that the countries of the world are open to each other, with their interdependence igniting the fever of competition for human competencies, offers of grants, and spurring migration today, which are often no more than efforts to attract intelligent and sophisticated talent.

The values of justice and equality of opportunity rise also to face these challenges as they are considered to be the basic guarantee of business growth and development and the discovery of the most intelligent, skilled, and willing to work/learn is key to this. Justice is no longer just an institutional value for governing and the public domain but also a great resource for organizing and developing competencies and businesses. Thus, there is a need to reorganize taxes and public resources justly and efficiently so that the rich can contribute to the development of institutions, markets, and businesses and provide all classes with opportunities for improvement, continuous learning, and training.  It is crucial not to lose promising skills and opportunities because of poverty, unemployment, injustice, and marginalization.

Social and economic gaps between classes in one nation or between different countries have turned into black holes that swallow the resources of the poor and make the rich richer. Political authorities must therefore focus on tax evasion as the greatest threat to justice, development, opportunities, and a better life.

The fear of machines and their negative impact on man have been an obsession for thinkers and philosophers since the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century, but technology has always been an institution of democracy, freedom, and justice as well as of well-being and improving of one’s life. While Marx warned that the machine increases capitalist control of social and economic strata, Lenin believed that the communist revolution is the idea added to it electricity and train. In general, health, human life expectancy, and the development of education have improved dramatically, and knowledge has increased to unprecedented length. It is true that countries and societies are losing their resources and are facing increased unemployment, marginalization, and economic and social gaps, but they still have practical and possible opportunities to absorb transformations and employ them in development, progress, and justice.

The idea of changing the nature of work is summarized in two issues: technology solutions replace routine and less advanced skills and increase the demand for advanced human skills and change in the patterns and organization of institutions and companies, where it can work remotely and through the network. There are, therefore, differences between the rapid change in demand for business and skills and the adaptation of educational institutions and communities to these transformations. Institutions that do not wait and work under the pressure of market changes and challenges leave many of the workers behind them vulnerable to unemployment and poverty. Investing in knowledge requires focused attention on advanced skills and the ability to solve complex problems.  It also requires social and emotional skills, reasoning, self-efficacy, and lifelong-learning.

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