Future of work

The concept of ‘work’ is changing across all dimensions: the work itself, the skills required, and where work is carried out. This poses both risks and opportunities for women’s economic empowerment, associated with the changing types of skills needed in the workforce and associated employment levels. McKinsey estimates that by 2030, between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations, often into higher-skilled roles. Ensuring women acquire the requisite skills is essential to ensuring they do not face a growing wage gap, or suffer increasing levels of unemployment. This also ensures women’s perspectives are incorporated into new products and services, and women can benefit from jobs in new and growing industries. Also, the gig economy presents opportunities for new types of employment and participation in the economy, including in traditionally male-dominated sectors (e.g. transport and ride-hailing). However, there are also risks to address, as women could continue to be overtly concentrated in informal roles with no or limited protections.


Opportunity
high

Opportunity associated with investing in women’s skills development for better jobs of the future.

The gig economy and remote work may offer better opportunities for women to enter the workforce while balancing work and family responsibilities. Some gig platforms are formalising informal work (e.g. Lynk in Kenya) while providing benefits such as training and micro-insurance. As a significant proportion of the informal workforce, women could benefit from this.

Sectors such as healthcare and social care are experiencing growth including in CDC’s markets. This could provide greater job opportunities for women who traditionally make up a high proportion of those sectors.

Risk
medium

Automation has the potential to eliminate jobs across a variety of sectors, particularly jobs that are considered unskilled or low-skilled. Women workers tend to be concentrated in low-value capture and menial jobs, which are often at the highest risk of automation.

Education must adapt to create the skills required by future jobs, and support women to transition into higher-skilled roles with transferable skills including more behavioural, ‘soft’ skills.

Financial services across emerging markets are changing. This is including the emergence of challenger fintechs, tradetechs and insuretechs, new digital remittance companies and mobile money platforms. In addition, traditional banking models are digitising their products and services, a trend which has accelerated in response to COVID-19, as customer service has moved online (i.e. instead of in-branch). This offers both risks and opportunities for women. Women in entry-level roles that required in-person interaction may find their jobs are at risk through replacement with digital technologies. However, these trends offer a range of new job opportunities that require digital alternatives across a range of roles, including customer service, risk management, and technology teams. It is critical that women are supported to acquire basic skills to interact with digital technologies as well as more advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills so they can access future job opportunities in the FI sector.

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Opportunity
high
Risk
medium

There is a risk that AI could worsen the employment gender gap for two reasons. First, AI is likely to increase automation, and thereby eliminate jobs across a variety of manufacturing sectors, including female-dominated sectors such as textiles. As McKinsey states: “Tomorrow’s successful apparel companies will be those that take the lead to enhance the apparel value chain on two fronts: nearshoring and automation.” Second, AI relies on real-world data and so can inadvertently reinforce existing social biases. For example, Gartner (2016) predicts that by 2022, 85 percent of AI projects will deliver erroneous outcomes due to bias in data or algorithms. At the same time, AI has the potential to reduce the burden of domestic housework on women, allowing them to take on paid work during the day.

Gender-smart investors could improve women’s job retainment by supporting investees focused on skills development. This would provide employees in female-dominated sectors at high risk of automation with the skills required by future working environments.

Gender-smart investors could also invest in smart devices adapted to developing country environments to reduce the burden of domestic responsibilities on women and thus allow them to take on paid work.

Also note, the gig economy and remote work may offer better opportunities for women to enter the workforce while balancing work and family responsibilities.

Source: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2018-02-13-gartner-says-nearly-half-of-cios-are-planning-to-deploy-artificial-intelligence

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Opportunity
high
Risk
medium

The concept of ‘work’ is changing across all dimensions: the work itself, the skills required, and where work is carried out. AI and automation is – and will – increasingly replace certain human jobs and create new opportunities. These changes create both a risk and opportunity associated with investing in women’s skills development for jobs of the future. Driving girls’ interest in taking up STEM subjects will be key to ensuring women are able to capture the opportunity associated with AI-related work. As important will be ensuring that women are equipped with behavioural, ‘soft skills’ to take up roles that cannot be automated, thereby decreasing the automation risk in their careers, and increasing the likelihood of career progression and promotion.

For gender-smart investors, their target should therefore shift from job creation to skills adaptation and development. To facilitate this shift, they could first evaluate the likely changes in skill requirements by sector, and then work with investees to create a workforce ready for the future (high-priority sectors include manufacturing, health and infrastructure).

Should existing investments lack the capacity or knowledge to fill the skill gaps identified, gender-smart investors might consider making new sector-specific investments in academies, universities and colleges that provide for the upskilling of existing and future workers, particularly women.

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Demand for healthcare and social care workers is expected to increase as economies grow, populations age and these roles continue to require human (non-automated) skills. Women are well-placed to take on these roles, so gender-smart investors should prioritise ensuring that women can access career progression and promotion opportunities within these industries, including taking on management roles. This is likely to involve a combination of training, mentoring and other incentives.

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Opportunity
medium
Risk
low

Hyper-intensive agriculture in developed countries (e.g. underground greenhouses, etc.) has the potential to significantly lower Western demand for imported agricultural products. Given’s women’s high concentration in food and agriculture, this has the potential to significantly impact women’s incomes, job security, and health.

Gender-smart investors can support investees to take a longer-term view of the impact of technologies and hyper-intensive methods that minimise the impact on women and meet the increasing demand for environmental and socially acceptable agricultural practices. Gender-smart investors should encourage investees to adopt new technologies and business models that ‘future-proof’ their businesses and to upskill their workforces – with a focus on women – to use these technologies. This will ensure more resilient jobs, particularly for women.

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Infrastructure is traditionally a male-dominated sector with few opportunities for women. Gender lens investors should ensure that women can participate in this part of the economy, particularly with sustainable infrastructure, through opportunities for upskilling as well as job placement support, new financial products, and support to manage family responsibilities.

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The construction and real estate sector is traditionally a male-dominated sector at all levels with few opportunities for women. Gender-smart investors should prioritise upskilling of women for construction roles to take advantage of growth in the construction industry, with a focus on resilient sectors, such as green efficient buildings. This could involve ensuring women can access technical and vocational education and training (TVET) opportunities in construction where green building practices are taught.

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