United Nations assistant secretary-general Kanni Wignaraja said that four key issues frame the agenda for future of work — digital transformation, green jobs, reliance of adaptive techniques, and closing the gender gap in jobs.
‘If countries, communities and households are going to have a chance to recover and get back to having a decent and sustainable means of livelihood, then the future of work must be addressed and it must be done quickly,’ said Wignaraja, also assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific of UNDP.
With a view to facilitating South-South cooperation and accelerating Bangladesh towards a more robust economy with consideration of the many challenges it is facing, the UNDP in collaboration with its Bangkok regional hub launched the Future of Work Lab over a virtual programme, said UNDP on Friday.
UNDP deputy resident representative Van Nguyen delivered the welcome remarks at the session, followed by official inauguration by Wignaraja.
Located in Bangladesh, the lab will support the Asia Pacific region.
‘Its success will very much depend on the partnerships it forms... it requires a network of public and private sector, UN partners such as ILO and the Office of SS, academia and NGOs,’ said Wignaraja.
A report titled ‘Post COVID-19 Jobs and Skills in Bangladesh’ was also launched at the session, which identifies 11 high impact sectors where jobs have been lost, and five emerging sectors where new jobs are being created.
Over the next 20 years, huge changes are expected in the Future of Work (FoW) for Bangladesh as automation, artificial intelligence, fourth industrial revolution and other trends, such as the shift to a circular economy, threaten existing jobs in key industries such as garments and textiles.
SDG integration lead of UNDP Bangkok regional hub Christine Wellington-Moore and lead of Future of Work and South-South Cooperation Team at a2i Asad-Uz-Zaman delivered a presentation on Future of Work Lab in Bangladesh.
A recent study commissioned by a2i suggested that due to COVID, 20.45 million people already lost their jobs in informal and SME, transportation, construction, furniture, readymade garments and textile, leather goods and footwear, tourism and hospitality, light engineering, migration, ceramic and real estate and housing sector.
It also shows that by the end of 2021, 3.92 million new jobs will be created in emerging sectors, like agro-food, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, ICT and e-commerce and creative media sector.
A2i has worked with the Bangkok Regional Hub to develop Future of Work lab, which will move beyond merely matching demand and skill to take into account social protection, safe migration of workers, entrepreneurship support, digital transformation to ensure continuity of public and private sector services, and resilience of key supply chains etc.
During a panel discussion, UNDP resident representative Sudipto Mukerjee said that in Bangladesh, there was a mixed trend in terms of business. Some big corporates will use this to invest in generating social goodwill.
He said that investments would be made to make the supply chain more resilient towards climate change and other issues.
‘Another group will repurpose, for example, RMG producers might opt to produce PPEs. But there will be another category, although reducing in numbers that will continue to be irresponsible and exploitive. This last group has to be monitored by the government. We have to help ease the process of transition. This is a time for solidarity and all of us need to come and work together.’
Cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said, ‘Whenever ambitious plans such as Future of Work Lab are developed, we do it in the face of challenges. This time, the challenge is the pandemic. But there are advantages as well — this fiscal year’s budget has a 14 percent allocation for the social safety net. We have recently approved a three billion-dollar programme for youth’s skill-building. So there is reason for optimism for the future.’
Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific at United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation Denis Nkala; UNDP Bhutan resident representative Azusa Kubota, UNDP Maldives RR Akiko Fujii and a2i policy adviser Anir Chowdhury also spoke in the panel.
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