70 million people displaced globally by war, violence, says UNHCR

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, has said that over 70 million people have globally been displaced by war, violence, sometimes combined with poverty or climate change.

Grandi who spoke at a special forum at the ongoing 108 sessions of the International Labour Conference said as a result of being displaced, these category of people are fundamentally and often excluded from the transformations benefit others in the world of work.”

Labour experts participating in the 108th session of the International Labour Conference have said that advances in technology such as artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will create new jobs, but concluded that workers must adjust to the challenges created in the world of work.

Grandi said that “Eighty five per cent of refugees who are displaced – stateless people – are in poor and middle income countries. Most of their access to work is informal.

Their exclusion is multiple and has a lot of impact on their ability to work. They have no documentation, and often no freedom of movement. They are excluded from financial services and the digital gap is particularly big, and education is a remote opportunity.”

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The Labour concluded that some people will have to the changes collectively work to ensure that the social safety net enables them to manage this transition successfully.

The participants who discussed transformations sweeping through the world of work, including technology, climate change and demographic shifts include representatives of workers, employers, and governments, the private sector and international organizations.

Participants agreed that such challenges make it necessary to continually re skill and up-skill over the life course. Jobs will be needed for the many young workers in developing economies.

Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships Moussa Oumarou, who set the stage for the discussion stressed the need to urgently tackle mounting challenges in the world of work.

He said “Advances in technology – artificial intelligence, automation and robotics – are all going to create new jobs, but some people will have to adapt, and it’s up to us to work collectively to ensure that the social safety net enables them to manage this transition successfully. Skills are part of the picture. Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and recently acquired know-how risks being quickly outdated.”

Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Jose Angel Gurría Trevino, believe that the forces of digitalization, globalization and demographic change provide great potential to improve lives, and that four out of 10 jobs created in OECD countries now are in digital-intensive sectors.

“But at the same time, 14 per cent of the workforce today is highly exposed to being displaced by technology, an additional 32 per cent being disrupted by technology. So about half the workforce altogether is impacted by technology; about half the workforce is not prepared for operating in highly technological work environments.”

He added: “those who need training most are the ones who have the least access to it,” adding that demographic trends are leading to massive migratory pressures and large-scale movements of migrants and refugees.

Also speaking, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Mario Cimoli, said “there is an enormous gap between middle income and developing economies and the more developed ones, because it is clear that, for example, in countries like Germany, digitalization is creating jobs, but in Latin America and other countries digitalization is not creating jobs and has a negative impact on informality and on small and medium firms.

“In Latin America, 80 per cent of employment is in small and medium firms.” He added that developing economies need to develop industrial and technological policies to create new jobs and incorporate digitalization into the structure of the economy.

Commissioner of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work, Thorben Albrecht, said “the skills requirements for workers are changing very quickly and will be changing over the coming years and our challenge is to make sure that no-one is left behind. How do we do that?”

He said: “We have to move from active policies to pro-active policies that engage with people that train them while they are still in their job but are in danger of losing it due to technological change.”

Albrecht also suggested instituting a “universal opportunities account” for re-training throughout their working life, in place of universal basic income. He said this would also give people more equal opportunities when starting out in their working lives.

by Tony Akowe, Geneva, Switzerland

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