Major technological transformations such as artificial intelligence, big data, FinTech, the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 are putting the global economy on a new track. These innovations will bring immense economic opportunities as well as dramatic changes in industries, employment and required skills that will create major challenges for individuals, businesses and governments.
Education is a key driver for sustainable and inclusive development. The global community is determined to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality; to protect the planet so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations; to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives; and to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies. However, education now faces the broad challenge of equipping people to deal with rapid technological changes in the Digital Age that are affecting the demand for skills, the nature of work and the global allocation of employment. A key implication is that the economic value of individuals’ skills will depreciate more rapidly than before, and that reskilling and lifelong learning will become integral parts of individuals’ working lives. Current educational systems will need to be reformed substantially to meet these challenges.
Moreover, in this fast-changing environment, disadvantaged groups such as the poor, women, rural residents, Small and Medium Enterprise owners and migrants face special difficulties in obtaining adequate education and training. This requires special efforts to provide adequate education and training for these groups.
New modes of work arising from these developments also pose new challenges. Workers on platforms need to be able to access normal levels of social protection such as pensions, health insurance, unemployment insurance and employment protection.
Standards and metrics need to be developed for the required skills in this new environment, including digital literacy, financial literacy and digital financial literacy. Surveys need to be carried out to determine the current status of skills and to identify gaps and shortfalls.
In response to these challenges, G20 countries should adopt policies that achieve well-balanced labor markets capable of matching skills supply and demand in an environment of rapidly evolving technology while reducing inequalities and promoting economic and social development. G20 countries should also develop educational systems that promote equal opportunities, lifelong learning and reskilling, and digital literacy. Three major areas need to be addressed: promoting lifelong learning and work; promoting digital literacy and other future-oriented skills; and promoting social protection for the platform economy.
Promoting Lifelong Learning and Work
As mentioned above, the rapid evolution of skills requirements for the labor force imply that the processes of reskilling and lifelong learning need to be institutionalized in both employment and educational systems. For example, policies should be adopted to encourage more individualized and flexible learning as well as certification processes that facilitate skilling, reskilling and upskilling of workers through greater participation in alternative and non-formal education programs like “Technical and Vocational Education and Training” (TVET) and other work-based learning models. In particular, it is important to help vulnerable groups most likely to be affected by skills displacement such as poor, aging and low-skilled people, women and small business workers by supporting policies and programs aimed at improving digital access and equity.
Promote Digital Literacy and Other Future-Oriented Skills
It is broadly recognized that digital skills will be increasingly required of workers in the Digital Age. To this end, it would be helpful to establish a collaborative body to develop a comprehensive digital skills strategy that advances the training, preparation for work and civic life, and well-being of all. G20 countries should support the development of standardized metrics and assessment tools for measuring digital literacy. These metrics and assessment tools should emphasize the multidimensionality of digital literacy, including technical skills, socioemotional human skills, and specific competencies in areas such as digital financial literacy in light of the rise of FinTech.
A further step would be to promote the development of guidelines and best practices for transforming digital literacy into tangible outcomes in the work place and beyond. Digital dividends to bridging the skills divide should also be defined, especially in terms of employability and social mobility.
G20 countries should also support the creation of a coalition or advisory board to develop a coordinated approach to promoting digital skills literacy. This includes developing and implementing standardized skills and assessment tools for establishing targets, tracking progress, and updating policies and programs to bridge the digital skills divide, especially for vulnerable groups.
Promote Social Protection for the Platform Economy
The development of the platform or “gig” economy provides new avenues for globalizing the labor force, and has the potential to have major impacts on national labor markets. The emergence of global markets for virtual services can be a powerful source of economic growth, but global governance is needed to address issues of regulation, worker protection and cost arbitrage. This makes it a strong candidate for the development of policies by G20 countries.
The first step is to gather more information. This includes carrying out more studies to assess the benefits and challenges of the emergence of the platform economy and the “servification” of economic transactions, and develop an international strategy including definitions, metrics and assessment tools for measuring the platform economy and its impact on labor markets.
Second, the global nature of such platforms points to the need to adopt guidelines and reform existing frameworks for updated and more coordinated global governance of platform economy transactions. In particular, social protection coverage for platform workers needs to be strengthened. This includes fostering data-sharing and regulatory collaboration with platform firms to ensure worker rights, govern user data and facilitate healthy competition among firms; coordinating definitions of formal legal categories around platform work; and devising integrated systems to tax and target appropriate social benefits to platform workers.