Government • 29 November, 2018

Investments in human capital and lifelong learning: experts discuss labor market trends

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The forum "Future of Labor Market: New Opportunities" was held Nov. 29 in Astana with the participation of Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev. About 300 Kazakhstani and international experts, major employers, foreign investors and government representatives gathered at the event, reports the press service of Prime Minister.

The forum is organized to discuss the prospects for the development of employment and the social sphere in Kazakhstan in the context of dynamic changes in the global labor market under the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The issues of digitization of the labor market infrastructure and the transformation of the training system were actively discussed. The themes of labor mobility and the inflow of foreign talents, the development of an active employment policy on the path to inclusion, as well as new tools to support target groups were also raised.

Opening the work of the plenary session, the Prime Minister noted that the ongoing transformation of the labor market and the associated challenges and opportunities are among the most pressing in Kazakhstan. This forum, in turn, will allow the exchange of views on the most important issues of labor market modernization.

The full text of the Prime Minister Sagintayev’s speech is here.

During the plenary session, representatives of international organizations spoke about global trends bringing changes to labor markets. Experts with international experience informed about the impact of global trends for developed and developing economies. Experts from developed and developing countries, in turn, presented experiences and plans for managing changes in employment, education, and providing social protection measures.

The plenary session was moderated by the Managing Director of BCG Sergei Parapechka, who noted that a balanced labor market, a high level of human capital’s development, productivity and employment are very important for most of the governments. Kazakhstan is no exception.

“The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed and voiced the topic of Human Capital as the main for discussion in the Foreign Investors’ Council in 2019. Now this building has hosted an interim FIC meeting, at which human capital development was discussed. New human capital is the number one reform in the Strategic Development Plan of the country, prepared by the Government until 2025. The goal of our meeting today is twofold. The first is to discuss the challenges and prospects for the development of the labor market. The second is to discuss practical solutions that can be applied by states, employers and each of us in order to remain competitive in the labor market,” said Parapechka.

Director for the Education Global Practice of the World Bank Keiko Miwa devoted her presentation to changes in the nature of work and voiced a number of recommendations on this matter.

“Changes in the labor market greatly affect our countries. If you type “future work” in English in Google, you will find 2.6 billion results in a few seconds. This is indeed a very hot topic,” said the expert.

According to her, there have been great discussions about robotics and artificial intelligence and how they will replace our traditional jobs. Due to automation, many jobs in the traditional sectors will disappear. But nevertheless, innovation allows the creation of new jobs. In general, they will increase, but they require stronger social and emotional skills. Now, as the expert noted, routine cognitive skills are no longer required.

“Technology companies are changing very quickly. Technologies emerge and they change the way people work. The conditions in which they work are less long-term – they are increasingly short-term, part-time, remote, through online platforms. But in the aggregate, their number is insignificant – only 3% of the world labor resources. But trends are increasing. What can the government do with these changes? We focused on three major investments: investing in human capital, stimulating learning throughout life. In addition, due to the changing nature of labor, a stronger social protection system is needed,” said Miwa.

OECD Directorate of Labor and Social Affairs, Head for Non-Member Countries Alessandro Golio, in turn, focused on changes in the labor world and their impact on labor markets.

“In many countries we are returning to the unemployment rate before the global crisis and even lower. But at the same time, we see a big difference between countries within this dynamics. There is a growing gap in productivity levels between different types of firms. Adaptation to technological change is going on at an uneven pace: some companies find it harder to ensure it. We observe a polarization of the labor market. This means that middle-level skills are declining, and employment with the highest and lowest skills increases. That is, those jobs that are routine are subject to the greatest influence,” said Golio.

Deputy director general of the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department of the Asian Development Bank, Kiara Bronki, spoke about technology policy, jobs and the labor market.

“I last visited Kazakhstan 10 years ago. After 10 years, it is very pleasant to see even greater dynamics, energy and proactive thinking of an open country. These aspects are very important in order to capture the potential of technological progress on a global scale. Technologies lead to the emergence of new professions, these are not routine cognitive skills. Now there is a shift of low-skilled workers by highly skilled,” said Kiara Bronki.

PwC partner Michael Ahern reported on the practical preparation of workers for the future. In particular, the expert presented the results of recent PwC research in collaboration with the London Business School in the area of ​​work environment forecasts for 2030 and the skills, competencies and gaps that exist between today's competencies and those that will be needed in the future.

“At a time when we are all talking about technology, artificial intelligence, big data, it is surprising that the working environment is still an important factor for us. We are all human. We want to work in an environment where there is a balanced life, where the workload is reasonable, where there are opportunities for development. This fact should not be overlooked. That is, human feelings are still paid a big focus. But at the same time, we now have access to data that did not exist before. Therefore, we, as employers, should take advantage of these benefits,” said Ahern.

Partner in People Advisory Services at EY Singapore Samir Bedi spoke about future skills and best international practices, as well as how the Government of Singapore handles this.

“In 2018, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Singapore. There are certain similarities and differences between our countries. A key similarity is our enthusiasm for the new labor market, the ability to redesign skills. For Singapore, the labor market is the whole world and our people are our main asset. It is very important for us to be competitive and have the necessary skills of our people. For the last 3-5 years, we have been trying to find the answer to the question: “How to prepare the workforce to meet the new demands of the labor market,” Bedi said.

The presentation by Deputy Managing Director for Human Resources of Chevron’s Eurasian Division Diana Gilliz was devoted to digitalization and the evolution of the workforce.

“Digital technologies have become a reality that change our lives, the image of our work, leisure, and the key word here is ‘change.’ Changes have become the norm for both individuals and the entire company. Chevron believes that the digital revolution will be a great opportunity to improve business. We have already been working in Kazakhstan for 25 years and are partners with the Kazakh Government.

How do we use digital technology in our work? For example, we have millions of kilometers of roads for driving, and we are now using technology to increase driver safety. In cases where drivers suddenly fall asleep and are distracted on the road, the system notifies the driver and monitors its activities in the long term, and we can make our own changes. We use automation tools, such as drones, that we can use to stop equipment. We must always be a learning company, lifelong learning is the key to success. We use visualization technologies at our fields, where employees will be given instructions from the office and the supervisor will see how well employees are working. The basic concept is lifelong development. Leadership is also one of the priorities, we must be convinced that leaders create the right conditions for their employees, it is important to manage the workload and keep a balance between work and personal life,” said Gilliz.

Having heard the foreign experts, Sagintayev noted that the measures taken by the Government of Kazakhstan to form the labor market coincide with those suggestions of international company representatives. In addition, the Prime Minister invited foreign experts more often to come to Kazakhstan in order to know what he is doing, how Kazakhstan is developing and where it is going to understand the joint work.

The forum also summed up the first stage of the project “Development of labor skills and job incentives,” implemented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population with the support of the World Bank. The participants discussed the impact of modern technologies on the demand for various work skills in the international and local context, the role of education in shaping the necessary skills and competencies in the 21st century, and also noted the importance of developing the National Qualifications System for improving and shaping the balance in the Kazakhstani labor market.

The forum included four thematic sessions on the topics “Technologies, Skills and People,” “Large Employers: New Challenges,” “Inclusive Employment and Employee Support Measures,” “Skills and Jobs,” at which forum delegates evaluated the scenarios of the impact of challenges on the global labor market to national markets, new forms of employment and the adaptation of the social protection system.

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