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Age of 4IR: Exciting, challenging, full of promise, says Gurria

Khaleej Times 2019-02-11 13:00:16

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is already upon us. To reduce the risk of displacing the human workforce in a technology-dense environment, we need to up-skill, re-skill and focus on preparing the youth for a changing future.

On the second day of the World Government Summit 2019 in Dubai, Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of OECD, highlighted the opportunities and challenges the world is facing in relation to the future of the economy in the age of the fourth industrial revolution.

"It is exciting, challenging, full of promise. But at the same time, it has downsides. The secret is to focus on the promise and reduce the downsides," he said.

Looking specifically at the OECD countries; countries pitted as the most developed on a global scale, Gurria revealed some alarming home truths.

"Up to 14 per cent of the population today is in danger of being displaced by technology. Another third of the total workforce will be disrupted by technology in the next few years. People will feel over or under qualified and won't feel at ease in the tech-dense environment."

Speaking during a session moderated by Becky Anderson from CNN, Gurria said the questions we need to tackle are: What do we do with the population at risk of losing jobs to technology? And what do we do to prepare youths who have to thrive in future jobs that don't yet exist?

While there are no clear answers at present, Gurria said education plays a key role.

"We need to level the playing field and deal with the responsibility to protect the quality of life, jobs, and also the state too." 

Speaking about the slow-moving economy, he said during the "rather ominous events happening today", referring to global trade tensions and Brexit among others, the OECD - in a period of just six months - forecast a 0.5 per cent drop in predicted GDP.

"About six months ago, we predicted that by the same time this year, the GDP would have grown by four per cent, but now we are saying 3.5 per cent. Why did we shave off that half a per cent? Mainly because of trade tensions." 

By doing that, the OECD confirmed that we are in a "slow down", Gurria said. Because what changed in those six months was simple.

"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Pressure on trade, particularly. People/organisations invest to produce, people/organisations produce to sell.

"If you don't think you can sell, then what happens is you don't invest. If you don't invest, the GDP suffers. Investment is the seed of tomorrow's growth. If you defer investment, you defer growth," he said.  

Calling uncertainty a "killer of confidence", he said it is that which is impacting today and causing a slow down in the economy.


Kelly Clarke

Originally from the UK, Kelly Clarke joined Khaleej Times in November 2012. She has a keen interest in humanitarian issues and took over as the dedicated Education Reporter in August 2016. In her spare time she loves to travel off the beaten track, and often write about her quirky experiences of pastures new. Kelly received her BA Honours in Journalism from Middlesex University, UK in 2008. Before joining Khaleej Times she worked as a Supervising Editor for three Healthcare titles in London. @KellyAnn_Clarke

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