The future of work capsules: Without decisive action Ghana will be sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties

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A Universal Labour Guarantee, social protection from birth to old age and an entitlement to lifelong learning are among ten recommendations made in a landmark report by the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work.

According to the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work, our governments need to commit to a set of measures in order to address the challenges caused by unprecedented transformational change in the world of work. The commission’s work was Co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven.

It is considered unprecedented transformational change in the world of work because this has never happened or existed in the past. We all may be very conversant with the past life and history but not the future. Adapting and setting the agenda towards this unprecedented transformational change in the world of work, will offer very unique value propositions for our economy and industries as we attempt to deep dive ahead of schedule coming out with sustainable solutions to the discourse. Among the many highlights of this commission’s report; the commission outlines a vision for a human-centred agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities, institutions of work and in decent and sustainable work.

We need to allow people to continue to work as they age, by having machines take on some physically demanding roles. Illustrating, a robot that can lift a hospital patient may extend the working life of a nurse who is treating the patient. We are all concerned about the impact of new technologies on the workforce and are interested in what we all can do to build a better work for ourselves and the next generation. If we take the right actions, we can shape the future of work in ways that meet the needs of workers, families, and their economies and societies. To do so, we first have to understand how work is changing, how firms can prosper and support good jobs and careers, and how to update the policies, institutions, and practices governing the world of work.

Listening to Peter Gumbel and James Manyika in the future of work podcast we can realize that how long the automation could take will be based on research before we start seeing a critical mass of automation being adopted in workplaces. This change will happen occupation by occupation, technology by technology, and activity by activity.

Some research in a sample of about 46 countries has been conducted, which are a mixture of developed economies and developing economies, and across that sample, it looks as if by 2030 we could imagine a range that has a midpoint, something like 16 percent of occupations would have been automated—and there would be impact and dislocation as a result of these technologies.

Now that number has a very wide range: at the low end, it could be very little, and at the high end, it could go all the way up to about 30 percent. The reason for that range is because it depends on the rates of adoption, the nature of the country, the wage dynamics in that country, and the wage dynamics in the sectors in that country.

We’re going to see few different kinds of transitions. The first one is that the mixture of occupation is going to shift. We know that when you take into account the activities that are easy to automate, relatively, and the ones that are relatively harder to automate, it will result in some occupations growing more than others. For instance, occupations that involve a lot of data gathering, data processing, or physical work are going to decline. The relatively harder occupations, and activities to automate, like care work and work that requires empathy, judgment, and so forth, those occupations are going to rise.

The mix of occupations is going to shift substantially. That means that people are probably going to have to move and be transitioned from certain occupations into new occupations, ones that are going to be growing. So that’s one kind of transition.

Another kind of transition is going to be the skill requirements. We know that the skill requirements are going to shift for a couple reason. One, because people are moving to new occupations that are going to require higher skills, often, in order to do those occupations; we know the skill requirements are going to go up, if only because people are going to be working alongside highly capable and increasingly capable machines.

In order for people to keep up, adapt, and work alongside effectively with highly capable machines, they will require a very different set of skills. So, the skill transitions are going to be quite substantial.

Among the ten recommendations put forward by the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work are:

 

  • A universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces. On adequate living wage, in pursuance of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) section 113(1) (a) and the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations Mr. Ignatius Baffour-Awuah announced at a media briefing in Accra and directed all establishments, institutions or organisations whose National Daily Minimum Wage (NDMW) is below the New NDMW of GH¢11.82 ($2.16) to adjust their wages accordingly effective January 1, 2020. This new NDMW reflects an 11% increase over the 2019 figure of GH¢10.65 ($1.94). The NDMW is the least wage any employer in the country can pay a worker in a day in Ghana.  These agreements are usually reached at the National Tripartite Committee meetings where negotiations are concluded and recommendations are made. This minimum wage is tax exempt.

The Minister also announced that the government and organised labour had agreed that the current base pay on the Single Spine Salary Structure should be increased by 12% across board for the year 2020 at the existing pay point relativity of 1.7%. Mr Baffour-Awuah further announced the base pay, had been increased from GH¢9.10 per day in 2019 to GH¢10.19 in 2020 and takes effect from January 1, 2020 also.

Mr Baffour-Awuah said the parties had also agreed to revise the prevailing rates of allowances expressed in the absolute amounts on the categories two and three allowances to new levels to take effect from January 2020. He advised government ministries, departments and agencies to take appropriate steps to give effect to the revised categories in accordance with new guidelines to be issued by the Ministry of Finance.

Ghana and for that matter, workers in Ghana deserve better monetary rewards. We look forward to that time when the partnership among labour, government and employers will increase and enable Ghanaians attain a take-home pay that will actually take most Ghanaians home.

On safe and healthy workplaces, in the face of the novel coronavirus, do we have an Infectious Disease Management Plan to help us navigate our way as the world prepares for a global pandemic?  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Coronaviruses (CoV / COVID-19) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, avoiding handshake, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking of meat and eggs.  We need to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. For now, its prudent to avoid crowded places and mass events.

In Ghana some religious groups are reviewing their cultural practices on handshake. Most people prefer to great in what we now term “the Corona way” by extending pleasantries with their feet and or elbows instead of their hands. What policy change is underway in our organizations?

With the growing concerns about the new COVID-19 now a global pandemic, organisations and companies such as Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and hundreds of other organisations are telling their employees to work from home to help prevent possible infections from spreading in the workplace. The future of work will offer similar opportunities where employees will be able to work from home. It is going to be an employee’s work.

Working from home or remotely is one great way organisations can leverage on the situation and still remain productive. Employees will need laptops, mobile phones and internet connectivity access which most phones, Wi-Fi and mifi’s could provide. How can one remain productive whiles working from home? Let’s look at some essential tips we can adopt to helping remain productive.

  1. Managers, bosses and Human resource professionals must learn to trust their staff in these moments. I always say, when there are no systems and structure, employees take advantage of that loophole. Put in place guidelines to helping employees work from home. These guidelines must be clear to everyone. Targets must be set and every staff must receive some kind of orientation about these guidelines. Employees must sign up for that. Management must be concern about daily productivity and targets employees must meet instead of long unproductive hours to be spent. Tracking online hours of work will not be a great idea. What should be the focus? Productivity and target. Let me hear from you, if you work remotely? What works better for you.?
  2. Create a dedicated work space at home which is free from distraction and offers you some kind of privacy. Get the right kinds of equipment to work with, including but not limited to a comfortable chair and table, get a Laptop to enable you move around with it if need be instead of a desktop computer which may not offer you value proposition in this moment. Think of things that make working remotely easier and fun.
  3. From experience, I realized being able to work even in your pyjamas was a great relief. Hitherto, I came to the realization that getting dressed whiles working remotely was rather the best thing to do. In that, you get prepared emotionally and psychologically to work. It offers you no panic situation if a colleague, boss or stakeholder request a video call.
  4. You need to have a plan for the day. Learn to follow that same schedules for your working day as you do whiles at work. If you are the type that typically will want to get current by commencing the day’s work by reading e-mails to enable you plan for the day, please stick to that schedule. Prepare your mind for some distraction whiles at home.
  5. Be discipline with your time management whiles at work. You should be able to let your friends and family know your schedule and respect it. Don’t reduce the day to flipping your phones from one WhatsApp or social media page to the other. It will not do you any good. Perhaps, your break times will be great moments to get up to date information with happenings of the day. Social media, the TV, phone calls, radio updates are all great.
  6. Avoid locational meetings and call for conference calls and meetings instead. There are several ways we can meet to discuss issues online. Skype becomes one convenient avenue; these days Zoom and WhatsApp offers the same benefit. Choose what is most convenient for you. Be prepare to work on a reliable internet connectivity.
  7. Your meetings can be grouped for each day to enable you become productive whiles working remotely. Having an up-to date contact list of all staff and stakeholders will be very useful. It will offer you a great opportunity to reach out to any colleague to discuss issues instead of long back to back e-mail correspondence. I always enjoy working first on a contact list to include full names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers of all staff, stakeholders, partners and others.
  8. Remember to have frequent water breaks to help you meet your daily requirements of drinking at least 12 glasses of water each day. For your own mental and physical health, frequent breaks to stretch is equally helpful. Love your life and learn to protect your kidney by not holding on longer to the urge to pass urine.

“Countless opportunities lie ahead to improve the quality of working lives, expand choice, close the gender gap, reverse the damages wreaked by global inequality. Yet none of this will happen by itself the report stresses. Without decisive action we will be sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties,”

It outlines the challenges caused by new technology, climate change and demography and calls for a collective global response to the disruptions they are causing in the world of work.

Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will lead to job losses, as skills become obsolete. However, these same technological advances, along with the greening of economies will also create millions of jobs – if new opportunities are seized. This is where our focus should be as a country. How do we create millions of jobs with the new opportunities that we envisage to come our way?

The report is the culmination of a 15-month examination by the 27-member commission, which is made up of leading figures from business and labour, think tanks, academia, government and non-governmental organizations.

Pragmatic efforts must be employed by our government and most businesses to ensure that Ghana takes decisive action that will prevent us from been classified as sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties. What notable pragmatic efforts employed by our government or our businesses and organizations are we particularly happy about? Your contribution to the discourse with the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC will be very helpful.

 

To be continued …

 

 

ABOUT THE ATHOUR

Baptista is a human resource professional with a broad generalist background. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling!  She is an HR Generalist, strategic planner, innovative, professional connector and a motivator. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]  You can follow this conversation on Linked-In: Baptista Sarah Gebu and on twitter @SarahTista.  Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC

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