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Daily Brief Geostrategic thinking

Innovation, skills and the future of work

Fabian Stephany writes a very interesting reflection on the relationship between the future of work and digital skills for Bruegel. Stephany looks to Europe but takes a strategic view.

The author notes: Technological change is not ‘skill-neutral’. New technologies, including for data management, digital design and autonomous systems, favour certain new skills while making others redundant or devaluing them. In addition, for many newly emerging jobs, precise skill requirements are evolving and are therefore unclear. Innovation will create jobs in the future but they will involve entirely new tasks.

Decisive in Stephany’s analysis is this passage: In this fast-changing labour market, it is crucial to know for which skills there will be a sustainable demand in the future, and how to acquire those skills. The conventional policy response is to align training programmes with changing labour-market demand, but this is increasingly ineffective as technological and social transformation outpaces national training systems.

Our point of interest concerns the asymmetry between technological and social transformation and national training systems. This is where the issue of complexity comes in. We are in the midst of a de-generative crisis of the political paradigm: working on vocational skills for a labour market that is immersed in a future already present demands, at the same time, the re-thinking of linear political thinking and training systems that do not take into account the dynamism and unpredictability of the ‘technological revolution’.

The capacity for permanent training in the uncertainty of reality is what will enable the changing labour market not to generate further social inequalities. So many risk factors affect the ‘political sustainability’ of our national systems: while we have to govern the ‘while’ of historical phenomena, we have the responsibility to look beyond, without fear and into the depths and fullness of the contradictions of the ‘historical present’ (not limiting ourselves, as it happens, to the ‘imminent present’).