Thursday, October 29, 2020

The reality of job losses and the future of jobs

There is a possibility that in the midst of the sweeping job losses, people will find themselves displaced and seeking a new sense of identity. In Botswana, job losses have become a common occurrence and are now accepted as the new normal that mirrors the country’s depressed economic conditions.

As familiar as they have grown to be, job losses represent more than just lack of employment. Experts point to the fact that losing a job represents loss of income, loss of sense of identity, loss of daily routine, loss of professional identity and loss of confidence. Collectively, a job loss is a burden too heavy to ignore, particularly in such trying times when prospects of finding a new job are dim.

This clearly indicates that an economic renaissance must take place. In the midst of rampant job losses, job creation on the other hand is slowly becoming an illusion.
Government’s restoration efforts, which include injecting capital into the economy through the Economic Stimulus Programme, are focused on projects in infrastructure development. These include construction and maintenance of government facilities, commercialization of the agricultural sector, geographic expansion of Botswana’s tourism, boosting manufacturing for domestic consumption, setting up of geographically distinct economic areas and providing an investor-friendly business environment. This is what is anticipated will create jobs and diversify the economy. 

ESP however does not specify the nature of jobs envisaged to spring forth, with regards to their stability and duration. A 2016 report titled “Future of jobs” developed in collaboration with the Global Agenda Council indicates that disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape up to the year 2020. 
“In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trendsÔÇöand to mitigate undesirable outcomes,” it suggests. The report highlights the significant change that will take place, the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which details that new categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others and that skills sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work.  

With a major disruption anticipated to take place within the labour market, it is important to think about what this means for Botswana. Local Economists lament that employment data in Botswana takes far too long to be produced, adding that there hasn’t been any definitive information on employment since 2013. This brings into question how the projects in ESP came to be identified as those with significant potential to create sustainable jobs. 

Given the increasing scarcity of stable employment, it should be a priority to find out how government intends to ensure that jobs availed today will still be relevant over the next few years. Government also has the responsibility to specify whether the jobs created are for the short term or will extend into the long term to so as to determine the relevance of skills in sustaining jobs. The anticipated disruption makes it necessary for the discussion on jobs to be definitive and transparent. 

The future of Jobs report recommends a longer term focus in which governments must re-think their education systems, a factor which Botswana must seriously consider. 
“Businesses should work closely with governments, education providers and others to imagine what a true 21st century curriculum might look like,” it proposes. It asserts that the current system is marred with practices that hinder progress in relation to talent and labour market issues. The report also proposes public private collaboration, which Botswana to this date fails to implement. “Multi-sector partnerships and collaboration, when they leverage the expertise of each partner in a complementary manner, are indispensable components of implementing scalable solutions to jobs and skills challenges,” states the report.

 

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