The Asian Voice

Job loss the greatest fear in a new world order: Inquirer columnist

In his commentary, the writer says that many of the unemployable in an IT world could transition to agriculture as we need farmers after the present generation fades away.

The current pandemic has led governments across the world to reboot the agricultural sector. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Covid-19 has introduced a protectionist mindset among many, with Mr Donald Trump the exemplar of that.

As an aside, if he wins a second term as president, the US will rapidly decline into relative obscurity as China rises ascendant in the world and dominates much of how the world operates.

Europe is already losing its grip on itself, and Western-style democracy will be at risk. Borders will tighten for people travel for years to come. The refusal to accept immigrants will grow, leading to increasing social unrest in many places.

The world will become more isolated and less globalist. There will be a move to manufacture more at home.

The disruption to supply chains that Covid-19 introduced will result in a manufacturing rethink: Come back home, or diversify.

This development could be an opportunity to pick up some factories fleeing China - if the Philippines can provide attractive, competitive conditions in which to invest. Indonesia and Vietnam are already benefiting as they actively entice the shift.

Covid-19 will be an opportunity for cash-rich China to gobble up cash-starved businesses in the US or other countries.

The attempt of Mr Trump to isolate the US from China can't succeed. The manufacturing cost differential is just too high, up to 10 times more in daily salary cost alone.

Apple will defy this and still build its phones in China, but shift some production elsewhere. The "all eggs in one basket" is no longer an option.

Education will no longer be rigidly constructed. Off-site learning will be part of all schooling. There will be a flexibility in how people learn. And "people" is just that, not only the young, but all.

As the world ever more rapidly changes, new skills will be required at all ages (my son is trying to force me into the digital world of today; his son will try to force him into whatever wondrous thing is next).

We'll be learning the new in our longer lives - 100 years will define the senior citizen. Already, 60 is unrealistically classified as senior. In Christ's time, 40 was senile.

The young will learn in a different way, and with a different curriculum. It will be more oriented to a rapidly changing world where the ability to shift skills will assume importance. The three R's must still start it all, but beyond that becomes a need to be competent at a specific skill for a limited time.

There will be a need to learn another skill based on a general competency taught at the beginning. Flexibility will be the key word. Teachers won't teach, they will be the guide for students as they manoeuvre the web in their self-motivated search for knowledge.

Enhancing the capability of the health system to conduct telehealth would not only expand access to health care services, but also prevent people from crowding in health facilities where they can contract viruses and other diseases. But there will be an increased need to protect patient privacy.

Countries need to invest in cyber security measures to ensure that data will not be manipulated or hacked; this is true in every field. Cyber security is a whole new industry that's getting ever more sophisticated as hackers uncover ever more tricks to break the walls.

This is where I see the greatest fear in the new world order: job loss.

Physical work is already being lost as robots take over in factory after factory. So what will happen to those people who were doing the manual jobs robots will now do?

The world population is growing beyond what this planet can sustain. And its ageing people are living longer with more productive years, so they're consuming earth's limited resources for longer.

The current pandemic has led governments across the world to reboot the agricultural sector through refocusing policies, programs, and projects to adapt to the changes brought about by Covid-19.

Many of the unemployable in an IT world could transition to agriculture. We need farmers as the present generation fades away. We need to make growing crops and catching fish profitable enough for the children to stay on.

More technology and less manpower will be required as a shift to more mechanisation occurs to improve productivity, such as the monitoring of crops by drones using algorithms that are better than the naked eye to see pest infestations and other diseases.

High-technology tractors will more efficiently plow fields; there's one that can harvest a dozen rows of crops at a time, pick five strawberries per second, and cover three hectares in a day. But there will still be demand for people well into the future.

Urban farming such as vertical and rooftop farms and backyards will also be increasingly common.

There will be a high usage of digital technology to link producers to consumers through e-commerce. That will result in fewer middlemen in the food supply chain. A most welcome development.

The writer is columnist with the paper. The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.

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