Distinguished Panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be participating to this session on the future of work and skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution, together with distinguished representatives from the Government of India. This is a timely opportunity to shed light on how to prepare the workforce of the future, and ensure that no one is left behind by doing so.  

Providing decent and productive work to disadvantaged groups is a significant global and national challenge everywhere. The global youth unemployment rate is expected to be over 13% this year, with 71 million young individuals unemployed. Women, especially young females, are disproportionately affected by a lack of enriching employment opportunities. Globally, the participation of young women in the workforce in 2016 was around 16% lower than that of young men.

The challenge of sustainable employment will be more complex to address in the coming years, especially for young women, especially for young people and especially given the changes in our productive requirements. Undersecretary just mentioned the increasing automation and robotics that will have many occupations in labor intensive sectors  become at risk. But the truth is new opportunities will also come up. New types of jobs are emerging. The World Economic Forum has said that 65% of kids who are today at a primary school will be employed in the future in jobs that today do not exist yet or have not been created.[1] The idea that we will inherit our the jobs of our parents is long past. Skill and labor demand across industries is changing rapidly. These trends also have diverse effects on people with different skill levels. On one hand, the demand for highly skilled workers and employees is rising. On the other, workers with lower skill levels are becoming increasingly vulnerable to losing their jobs, or rather, their jobs are prone to disappearing.

Which raises two critical questions – what could be done to ensure that the global workforce has the necessary skill to drive the 4th Industrial Revolution, and how can disadvantaged people be integrated to the market through the development of their skills? The answer to both lies in new perspectives to plan for an inclusive and competitive workforce. Strengthening private sector involvement in the design and delivery of such skills is of course of essence. The private sector, as the engine of growth, is best positioned to provide the capacity, knowledge, and expertise to reflect the labor market demands in trainings that they will be employed in the future. In the end, private sector employs  90% of the workforce in developing countries.[2]

Let me briefly refer to our own work, UNDP’s Istanbul Private Sector Center has developed research series called How the Private Sector Develops Skills, highlighting several ways in which the private sector can contribute to effective skills training, based on the experience in Turkey and India. Companies can support demand-driven trainings by sharing their human resource needs and labor market experience with training providers. Aligning education and training frameworks with the labor market demand, especially from the planning stage onwards, reduces the risk of mismatches.

Countries are thus recognizing the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships on skills training. Again, the time has passed when the education system was providing the skills without much collaboration or consideration for the needs of the private sector. More than 12 million people enter the workforce of India each year, yet many do not have the skills required for gainful employment.  The Government of India has set a target to skill 400 million people by 2022. The private sector will be training more than a third of this number. A comprehensive skills ecosystem has been established in the country, which builds on the close collaboration between public, private and civil society stakeholders. The esteemed panelists in this session and speakers in the following parallel roundtable discussions will share their insights and experience regarding this ecosystem.

Lastly, in my remarks I would like to emphasize that engagement of companies in skills delivery is not a panacea for employment. The capacities and resources of all stakeholders are needed and trainings should resonate with economic and industrial policies. In the end, skills per se do not guarantee job creation although the opposite is true, not having skills guarantees that you will not be employed in the labor market of the future.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the focus of skills development is not just short-term or low quality employment. It is indeed true that the private sector needs a skilled workforce for productivity and competitiveness. But it also important to realize that skills development is a pathway towards enriched choices for all, towards empowered and fulfilling lives and certainly towards poverty eradication. For individuals, skills are an enduring asset, which they can tap and nurture to overcome exclusion in society.

Let me  end by thanking our distinguished participants from India for joining us here today, to share their knowledge and vast expertise in this area. We are willing and ready to work with all partners to unlock the potential of skills needed for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Thank you very much for your attention.

UNDP Around the world