The Employers' Federation of Ceylon

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 11:44


n discussing the evolution of the world of work in the modern era, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) which is facilitating businesses to produce goods and services more efficiently and in a sustainable manner, cannot be underpinned. Technological advancement created by AI is not only redefining the way in which organizations function but is also likely to affect the manner of deploying human resources in the future. Many have concluded that the changes we are witnessing are irreversible and the advancements in technology have renewed a debate as to whether the human element could be reduced or replaced altogether. Scholars have predicted that there will be replacements of this nature with deep impact on the world of work. They have also predicted that the departure from traditional employment structures to more autonomous work situations, even challenging the traditional concept of employment, are changes that we will have to contend with in the years to come. On the other hand, it has also been forecast that opportunities will be created for people to earn their living more independently and more proactively.

Similarly, the challenges that the stakeholders would have to contend are many. Bureaucrats and policy makers will continue to grapple with issues far from their comfort zones. Labour market reforms will be ‘obligatory exercises’ and driven by socio economic factors in addition to competitiveness. As such, it would be timely that we took stock of such matters to better understand how this transitional phase ought to be navigated with minimum, if not manageable impact on labour and other resources. Equally important would be to take cognizance of the views of all stake holders, including employees on how business will function in the times ahead.

Diversity and inclusion will be key elements in the evolution of sustainable enterprises and as already proven, these elements are likely to create many opportunities for employers to take advantage of and find enduring solutions. Diverse forms of employment which are expanding due to high demand for such work, especially by women, will continue to create similar opportunities whilst ensuring values such as work-life balance and fulfilling of social obligations. The ability to work part time, for instance, and be self-employed in relation to a vocation of one’s choice can also lead to higher earnings. In fact, these changes have also enabled women to be part of the work force in greater numbers than ever before and it is fervently hoped that Sri Lanka too will make use of these opportunities for its socio-economic progress.

In this backdrop, it would also be important to comprehend as to how employers, employees and other stakeholders including decision makers, are coping with the changes that are taking place in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is already upon us. As to whether solutions can also be found to reconcile perennial problems such as the ‘skills mismatch’ will have to be carefully observed particularly in view of the impact of digitalization as well as the inroads made on the back of AI. Aside from studying the impact of digitalization and automation, the reaction of policy makers to the changes that are taking place will have to be carefully evaluated if we are to maximize the rich dividends that can be reaped through the changes that are currently taking place. Creating an enabling environment for ‘sustainable enterprises’ to thrive is likely to be a key component that will influence the success or failure of economies.

Similarly, it would be important to avoid any form of polarization by ensuring that the views of stakeholders, importantly the workforce, is taken into consideration in bringing about change influenced by digitalization and AI. Whilst we cannot afford to leave anyone behind, we need to take integrate the changes that are taking place, such as the propagation of the ‘gig economy’ as well as the aspirations of people. This would assist us in determining policy and implementing change.

Addressing youth issues as well as catering to the aspirations of the older segments of the workforce will also have to be considered in formulating work related policies for the future. For countries such as Sri Lanka, which will have to contend with an ageing population, it would be imperative to make use of the many opportunities that are being created due to the proliferation of technology and making optimum use of its demographic resources. As Klaus Schwab has stated in his work on the Fourth Industrial Revolution “Technology is not an exogenous force over which we have no control. We are not constrained by a binary choice between ‘accept and live with it’ and ‘reject and live without it’. Instead take dramatic technological change as an invitation to reflect about who we are and how we see the world…”

Such are the prospects of change and the opportunities that come with it. Hence, it is incumbent on all Sri Lankans to make full use of the changes that are taking place in the‘world of work’, in order to move away from the stereotype and to achieve faster progress than defying change for the sake of resistance.

By Kanishka Weerasinghe


scroll back to top
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2019 11:52