This years’ WEF Jobs Summit is unlike any other before - a virtual gathering that, over the course of four action-packed days, will bring together the world’s leading thinkers, policy-makers, CEOs, academics and scientists. Themed scientists to consider how to picture the future of work while living through a present that was totally unimaginable just this time last year. around Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation, Day One of the Summit featured panel discussions and deep-dive insights into how we can pivot to a better future, resetting our trajectory to not only recover, but get better, and how to “rewire the global economy to focus on the quality and direction of future economic growth.”
In a day full of illuminating conversations on revival, theories on the future of work and inspiring calls to action, one of the most inspiring sessions was the opening discussion on how to build a “job-full” recovery and build a more inclusive, sustainable economy.
Speakers in this discussion were Ray Dalio, Founder, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates LP; Alan Jope, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever; Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum; and Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Ministry of International Cooperation of Egypt.
“We need to make sure that the growth is inclusive, sustainable and creating the necessary jobs,” Brende opened by saying. “Sometimes you can think looking at the market that the recovery is K-shaped. The market is going up, the number of jobs is going down. We are going to prove that wrong.”
Agreeing on a number of issues, the speakers touched on a variety of key themes:
Green recovery is the only recovery
According to the UNDP, a green recovery will generate US$10.1 trillion in “financial opportunity” and will create 395 million jobs by 2030. The question of climate change and sustainability was central to discussion of how to create a “job-full” recovery.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope, highlighted the common myth that sustainability cannot go hand-in-hand with profit. “One of the most dangerous mindsets in the world is to set up a false dichotomy between sustainability and growth,” says Jope.
Ray Dalio had some reservations over making the case of sustainability and profit going hand-in-hand, though he sees signs this will be the case if there is enough power behind the transformation:
“I don't have high confidence in corporations and their shareholders putting a social good ahead of an economic gain - it’s a difficult situation for them to be in,” Dalio says. “But when you have ESG investing, and the government necessarily redirecting funds in a totally different way, as we are beginning to see, you will make that happen."
Jope also highly recommends investing in a low carbon future. “That’s going to be one of the places where there are a lot of jobs - a booming space for jobs,” he says.
Building on this, Brende cites research statistics that show investments in renewables actually create 3x more jobs. Jope agrees, stating “the business case for sustainability is bulletproof,” while highlighting that companies who make such commitments not only do good for the planet but are “magnets” for attracting the best talent. “Purpose is a pathway to profit,” he adds. Across the board, it seems, sustainable business strategies are win-win.
Learning, development and skilling
Rania A. Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, believes there could be an opportunity in the disruption, particularly if the recovery focus is on young people. 60% of the population in Egypt is under 30 years old. Al-Mashat believes this is where the opportunity lies: “When people are young, you can reskill and retool them quite quickly providing you have the political will and understanding with employers, so it is done at scale which is conducive to where we want to go,” Al-Mashat says. “We have a tech-savvy younger generation, and the challenge now is how do we equip them more?”
For job creation, in the context Al-Mashat discusses, such opportunities do exist, but “the potential for them going forward needs to be showcased more vividly.”
There also needs to be a case made for job protection and creation for the most marginalised and hardest hit by the labour market. Last Year, Al-Mashat says, Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a WEF Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator initiative, indicating a huge step in the right direction.
With that said, some jobs are simply on their way out and we shouldn’t waste time trying to revive them. “We do not believe in propping up obsolete jobs of the past, at least not in the medium term,” says Jope. Nor does he believe these jobs need to be propped up, because there is going to be an “explosion” of new jobs. The critical aspect is that governments and the private sector (like Unilever) now invest in skills and learning to prepare workers for these new jobs.
Change how we 'Measure Success'
Another key theme was a shift in how we quantify and measure success. Jope says we must “measure what we treasure” and undo the preoccupation with GDP and profit. “You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect,” he says.
The pandemic has undoubtedly shifted our priorities but, as Ray Dalio points out, there are various other factors to consider such as debt cycles, falling interest rates, growing wage gaps leading to political gaps and a shift in geopolitical and economic power balance between the United States and China. Each of these factors are interacting and driving transformations that will be as important - if not more important - going forwards.
Now is absolutely the time for companies to reexamine what they treasure and reset their priorities in order to build back in a more sustainable, inclusive way and create a more “job-full” future for all. As Brende ends by saying, “we have to get the growth machine starting again, but it has to be a different machine.”
Day Two of the WEF Jobs Summit will be centering on the theme of Work, Wages and Job Creation. The day will feature talks on the Global Outlook and Scenarios for a Jobs Reset from Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and John Defterios Editor and Anchor, Emerging Markets for CNN Business, along with Tanuj Kapilashrami Group Head of Human Resources at Standard Chartered Bank on Setting New Standards for the Future of Work.