The Impact of Disruptive Technology on the Nature of Work in Developing Countries: Perfect Storm or Storm in a Teacup?
How will the “technological revolution” impact the nature of work in developing countries? On the one hand, many jobs in developing countries—in manufacturing, agriculture, and services—lend themselves to automation. On the other hand, just because something can be automated doesn’t mean it will be. Relative factor prices, regulatory and policy frameworks, and institutional capacities to manage new technology can influence the pace of technological adaptation. Some analyses—including by CGD colleagues—find dark clouds on the horizon; others see a silver lining.
Where we come out matters. If automation makes light manufacturing uncompetitive in most developing countries, premature de-industrialization could become even more of a risk and the traditional path to higher-productivity jobs and higher incomes begins to look ephemeral. Can new jobs in the digital economy provide enough of an offsetting boom and help developing countries leapfrog into a brighter future? We know that current education systems aren’t delivering the skills needed for tomorrow’s jobs but what might come in their place? What advice can we offer developing country policymakers to help them navigate through this uncertainty?
In this inaugural CGD Debates in Development, we’ve invited experts to weigh in on these questions. I hope you’ll join the conversation, too. In two weeks, I’ll post a wrap up of our discussion. Stay tuned!