#PublicPrivatePartnerships and the future of work

| June 11, 2018

If we made a bet today on what critical technology will best position the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution, some might say the adoption of blockchain, and others artificial intelligence or quantum computing.

We believe that the most disruptive technology is also the one with the greatest potential to generate positive changes in productivity and in the generation of new companies and jobs. Known as “public-private partnerships (PPP) or multisectoral partnerships,” the term does not feel very “techie” but it has often been invoked in major international forums. Although, only a few brave souls have ventured to explore this path.

The fourth industrial revolution, which fuses different technologies such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence and robotics, is able to spark important transformations across all productive sectors and societies in a matter of days. Teleworking, online education, independent work platforms, the automation of more and more processes, and virtual assistants already coexist with us.

The trend is to take it further, although the adoption of these technologies is still slow and very uneven across the region. One of the most important effects of this revolution has to do with the way in which children and young people should be educated. The IDB and the MIF know this. Thus, they are actively raising awareness among governments and the private sector in the region to develop infrastructures and policies that meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

For that, the discussion goes beyond the simple displacement of employment by automation, we must think about what kind of jobs can grow with the adoption of new technologies and which will become obsolete. We must prepare ourselves for the jobs of the future and focus on those skills where we have comparative advantages with respect to machines: creativity, critical thinking, and socio-emotional intelligence, among others. The intelligence of the labor market in the region must be improved and this information must be enabled so that training centers and educational systems can make informed decisions about the relevance of their curriculum.

But it is not worth simply implementing specific projects to develop these skills. This phenomenon must occur from a perspective of structural change. The IDB reminds us in its latest publication The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that Latin America and the Caribbean must work in partnerships to take advantage of the opportunities that arise due to technological advances and, in turn, minimize their risks of exclusion. The IDB mention: “PPP should be developed on three fronts: (1) investing in skills for everyone from an early age that allows people to learn throughout their lives; (2) supporting workers as they transition to new jobs; and (3) rethinking the welfare state because social security systems must adapt to a new digital reality and future demographic changes.”

However, the region has very little experience working in partnerships in order to generate these social and structural changes.

The name of new technology is working in partnerships    

An example of pioneering partnerships work, both in the region and globally, is the NEO initiative. Since 2012, NEO has managed to engage more than 140 organizations from the private, public and civil society sectors of 10 countries in the region to work in an articulated manner using a structural approach. The objective of the initiative is to close the gap between the skills of the most vulnerable youth and the needs of the labor market.

An example of how alliances can be a viable solution can be found in the experience of the start-up countries that now are completing a three-year pilot phase. After working for the first time in alliances, these countries have positioned the issue of youth employment and the challenges of the future within the public agenda with significant results.

For example, the Alliance NEO Mexico focused on developing efficient processes to align technical and occupational training to the needs of a changing and increasingly technified labor market. These curricular adjustments were adapted to the needs of youth and the businesses, and as a result, 76% of youth trained were placed in jobs, with 84% of them earning the same, higher and, in most cases, tripling the minimum wage.

Mary Snapp, corporate vice president of Microsoft Philanthropies, a partner company of NEO, said that no company, no industry, no government, no foundation, no school district can do it by itself.

And, it is often in situations of disagreement you can think: “how fast I would do it by myself, if only …”.

But in this new style of technology, we must reinforce the concept that together we can go further preparing companies and educational systems in the region for the economy of tomorrow, making a prosperous future more and more achievable for our youth.

Elena Herder is lead specialist at the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank Group where she is leading the New Employment Opportunities for Youth initiative creating sustainable models to enhance the employability of poor and vulnerable youth. Francisco Larra is the regional co-ordinator of the New Employment Opportunities for Youth (NEO) initiative for the Multilateral Investment Fund. He has worked as a psychologist and educator assisting vulnerable youth in Central America.


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