21 January 2021
Digitalisation, AI and the pandemic are bringing about big changes in the way we work. But will these changes be for the good or the bad? Presently, society is focused primarily on the negative aspects: job loss through AI, low-cost workers, lack of social protection, lack of social interaction, etc. However, if we take a positive perspective we will see that, even though huge changes are coming, there’s good reason to hope for a better world:
1. The end of the rural exodus?
For millennia, populations have been moving from rural areas to cities, creating problems of depopulation and lack of essential services in the former and demographic pressure, poverty and precarious living conditions in the latter. Thanks to the democratisation of digitalization and the growing ubiquity of the Internet as well as the generalised acceptance of distance work as a part of life, people have now much greater flexibility in the choice of a place to live. It is not the same if you have a long commute once or twice a week or every day, especially if there is less traffic and more flexibility in working hours. This could give us the unique opportunity to achieve a better balance between urban and rural areas.
2. More opportunities in developing- and lower costs in developed countries?
So-called telemigrants, e.g. skilled workers from developing countries who provide services sector work from abroad, are presented as a threat to white-collar workers in developed countries. Big corporations, we are told, will increasingly make use of distance work to replace expensive workers in their home markets by the low-cost, qualified workforce available in emerging markets. We believe that telemigration is the opportunity for the best qualified to land a good job, independently of the country they live in and to reduce inequalities throughout the world, leading to more harmonious and just development. At the same time, companies in developed markets will have an opportunity to reduce their costs, hire more people and expand their business in their home country and beyond, creating new jobs to replace the ones taken by telemigrants.
3. SMEs and Big Corp. – will David beat Goliath?
SMEs have traditionally always been more agile and less hampered by bureaucracy than multinational companies and this has enabled them to stay competitive even while big corporations were creating “centres of excellence” abroad, delocalising as many processes as possible to low-cost countries. Lately, however, we have seen a trend towards ever greater infeudation of small businesses to global giants like Amazon. With the new technological environment, however, even the smallest of businesses in developed markets can hire qualified white collars outside their home markets, offering comparatively well-paid, interesting and varied jobs and thus increasing their diversity, flexibility and competitiveness while reducing their costs at the same time. At the same time, local companies in emerging markets can offer their services abroad much more easily than before and expand their client base, making use of their competitive advantage.
Whether you are an international corporation or an SME, you should take those trends into account and think long-term rather than about cost savings only, giving your team the possibility to benefit from these new developments. This will ensure you are considered an employer of choice and result in a win-win situation for both the employees and the company!
With outstanding communication and transport infrastructure, one of the highest salary levels in the world, an export-oriented economy and an already very diversified workforce as well as relatively short distances between major hubs, Switzerland is ideally poised to benefit from these changes. By embracing them early on and turning them to our advantage rather than fearing them, we can contribute to the continued prosperity of our economy.