The Asia Foundation’s annual conference - Asian Approaches to Development Conference - Seoul, 28th - 30th October 2019

I presented Tandem Research’s work on the impact of emerging technologies on labour markets in India, with a focus on women and the future of work.

The Asia Foundation’s annual conference - Asian Approaches to Development Conference was held in Seoul between 28th - 30th October. The theme this year was Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the Future of Work: Implications for Asian Development Cooperation. The 1.5 day conference was followed by a writing workshop participants who were invited to contribute a chapter to a book that is published in collaboration with the KDI School of Public Policy in Seoul.

The conference was organised as a dialog between country partners from Asia, the private sector, perspectives from donor countries for south-south cooperation, with a concluding panel on regional and international imperatives. I presented Tandem Research’s work on the impact of emerging technologies on labour markets in India, with a focus on women and the future of work. The perspectives from Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Thailand gave insight into the common challenges and barriers each country is facing. The vast skills mismatch and the lack of talent to develop AI and other emergent technologies were seen as great barriers in the face of increasing global competition.

Representatives from IBM, Microsoft Philanthropy, Korea Labour Institute and Korea Startup Forum spoke of their efforts in addressing the skills gap and equipping workers for the new world of work. IBM has introduced a five-year, pre university course which trains students on emerging skills and places them in industry positions. Microsoft has initiated a number of programmes of skills development in Asia to address changing demand from employers. A surprising but clear revelation from this panel was the heavy involvement of private, corporate actors in a sector that would traditionally have been under public purview. In the face of inertia from the public sector to upgrade the education system for the future, private players have stepped in, in some cases even suggesting to parents to lobby the government for change. Which begs the question - what is the public sector’s role in the face of increasing private sector involvement and how must accountability and equity be ensured if this is the trajectory of the future of education and employment

The remainder of the conference focussed on south-south cooperation and the role of multilateral organisations in tackling the barriers and transformations on the horizon as emerging technologies disrupt the world of work and the global economic order. Development organisations and multilateral agencies have been working to build capacity in Asia in general. The role of big data and data from platforms in addressing the challenges was emphasised by all.



Authors

Zothan Mawii

Zothan Mawii is a Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, work, and gender in the global south. She is currently working on a project exploring Indian women’s experiences of working in the digital economy. She has also been working closely with civil society organisations and gig workers’ unions to advocate for better labour protections and working standards. Her past work examines the impact of digital labour platforms in emerging economies and involved extensive fieldwork in India, South Africa, and Myanmar. She holds a MA in Digital Culture and Society from King's College London and a BA (Hons) in English from St. Stephen's College, DU.