12 February 2017

Uganda: Technology Likely to Worsen Unemployment - Byarugaba

Kampala — As Uganda struggles with a surge in unemployment, especially with the thousands of graduates jobless, the future does not look any better.

Estimates from the World Bank and International Labour Organisation point to at least two out of every 20 youth in Uganda being unemployed.

With technological advancement that is automating processes, the sentiment is that it will get worse before it gets better.

"We are already complaining about high levels of unemployment in the country especially among university graduates, but this is set to be even acute in the foreseeable future if the current trend of technological advancement continues," said Mr Richard Byarugaba, the managing director National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

He said this last week in Kampala while delivering a keynote address at a forum that discussed the future of work in Uganda.

The areas that create more jobs like agriculture and manufacturing are continuing to automate.

The service sector is also changing as banks and telecom companies reduce headcount and prefer to use automation.

What is already a ticking time bomb then poses greater challenges to policymakers who want to create jobs for Uganda's fast-growing youth population.

Byarugaba noted that even those with jobs could lose them because of what technology has to offer.

"There are also people in Uganda today whose jobs will be extinct in the next 20 years. Artificial intelligence is becoming more pronounced and all jobs that perform the task of a repetitive nature will be replaced by automation. Most of these changes and the disappearance of jobs are being driven by the rapidly changing technology underscoring the importance of bridging the digital skills gap," he added.

He, however, admits that there are opportunities for young people to create their own companies and also, jobs being created as a result of the change in trends.

Companies now have to employ social media managers, drone operators and digital content developers, jobs that were not entirely available 10 years ago.

The recognition is that the workplace is indeed changing. This is not only happening in Uganda.

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution is interacting with other socio-economic and demographic factors to create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labor markets. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others. The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work," reads the World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs in part.

Report

Ugandan companies, therefore, have to adapt and change with the times.

"... the work environment is rapidly changing with a number of factors influencing it ranging from globalisation, population growth erratic economic environments and drastic technological innovations.

"The onus is therefore on all of us to develop suitable policies for the changing work environment while especially focusing on ensuring decent working conditions and acceptable social welfare," said Ms Rosemary Ssenabulya, the executive director, Federation of Uganda Employers.

The initiative

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2013 started an initiative where it would work with government officials around the world on how to effectively respond to changes occurring in the workplace. The Future of Work Uganda forum was, in part, supported by the ILO, Federation of Uganda Employers and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

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