Michael Sippitt, Chairman of Clarkslegal LLP and the Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform, reports further from the 2017 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.
One key concern about the future of work in developing countries is the probable displacement of low skilled work by technology.
It cannot be said with certainty how bad the loss of jobs may be, but the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has published information which should greatly concern the Commonwealth in considering economic growth prospects of developing countries. Studies have indicated that major loss of low skilled work should be expected.
Taking textiles, clothing and footwear as one key example, accounting for some 9 million jobs in ASEAN alone, this may be the most vulnerable to technology displacement. More environmentally friendly manufacturing with new technology may also reduce need for low skilled work.
“Sewbots” will progressively change the sector, and will likely be operated in destination markets, thus removing significant manufacturing from countries which offer low labour costs but for retailers carry some hard to manage supply chain risks.
The high dependence of some highly populated Commonwealth nations on export of garments means that automation threatens livelihoods of millions and economic growth prospects generally.
This makes the issue a critical area for Commonwealth study towards governmental/business co-operation to monitor the potential impact and to manage the serious consequences for people who have little resource and resilience to face the impact of robotics.
It is an important issue for Commonwealth leaders to address with some urgency as the pace of technological change may accelerate in this as in other job threatening areas.