MARKET REPORT

Employers should retain, re-skill workers in tech era - WEF

In Summary

•Some of the jobs that are being gradually phased out include accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks and administrative and executive secretaries

•Those most in need of re-skilling and up-skilling are the least likely to receive such training and in turn end up losing their jobs

Employees at work./FILE
Employees at work./FILE

Joshua* was a data entry clerk about five years ago, earning a decent living and content with the fact that his knowledge in computers meant future job security.

This was however not the narrative as he and a number of his workmates lost their jobs only three years in. Joshua is now a boda-boda transporter along the Thika road route, trying to make ends meet.

His tale, much like many others in the country is a result of disruptions in the job market brought about by the adoption of technology.

A report by the World Economic Forum dubbed ‘The Future of Jobs-2018’ shows over the next five years 75 million jobs may be displaced globally through digitisation which has turned a number of jobs in different sectors into redundant roles.

The Kenya Job Market Report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows at least 5.2 million Kenyans capable of being economically active were unemployed or underemployed.

Some of the jobs that are being gradually phased out include accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks, administrative and executive secretaries, assembly and factory workers, as well as client information and customer service workers.

Although jobs are being lost, the WEF report shows 133 million additional new roles may emerge concurrently as a result of technology adoption.

Some of these are in areas such as user and entity big data analytics, app-and web-enabled markets, internet of things, machine learning, cloud computing, and digital trade, among others.

The report shows governments and employers need to retrain and improve workers skills, failure to which will lead to widening skills gaps, greater inequality and broader polarisation in the job market.

 “To prevent an undesirable lose-lose scenario, a technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment, and growing inequality, it is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through re-skilling and up-skilling,” the report stated.

 

The survey shows many employers’ retraining and up-skilling efforts remain focused on a narrow set of current highly-skilled, highly-valued employees.

On the other hand, only 33 per cent of firms surveyed said they would prioritise at-risk employees in roles expected to be most affected by technological disruption.

In other words, those most in need of re-skilling and up-skilling are the least likely to receive such training and in turn, end up losing their jobs.

With between 500,000 to 800,000 fresh graduates entering the job market each year, this may further increase Kenya’s unemployment rate.

The report shows 54 per cent of all employees will require significant skills upgrade. Of these, about 35 per cent are expected to require additional training of up to six months, nine per cent will require re-skilling lasting six to 12 months, while 10 per cent will require additional skills training of more than a year.