Reviewing the role of jobs in economic development

If you want to know the most vital ingredients to economic development, look at the indicators used by economists in measuring economic growth. The problem is that most of these formalized metrics and indicators are dominantly quantitative; which means that they are principally  concerned with numbers and statistics and not with the quality of those indicators that are needed to ensure development.

One economic indicator that is rarely discussed in a qualitative and in-depth manner is a country’s employment level or the level of job production. In the World Bank’s 2013 World Development Report on Jobs, the global institution aims to answer the crucial questions policy makers, government authorities, and even privaentities must answer to keep up with the ever-changing challenge of job creation and sustenance.

The report stresses how much of a country’s or economy’s employment status is dependent on the private sector, which provides most of the jobs. However, the report also underscores the fact that the state has a role to play in the creation of jobs and in making the business environment conducive for sustainable and productive jobs.

Another important fact that the report pointed out is that the kind of jobs that would be truly productive, beneficial, and sustainable depends upon the context and specific needs of each country. For example, agrarian economies have different needs than primarily urban or industrialized countries. This is why there is no single “magic formula” to an effective labour and employment policy.

Again, as with most of my blog articles, I would like to look into how technology has changed the landscape of jobs and employment. One obvious aspect is that the internet has created a myriad of new jobs and, not to mention, bizarre job titles. In fact, this article (You’re a What?! Decoding Today’s Job Titles  ( a-what-decoding-todays- job-titles/) from The Daily Muse points out that the influx of several

industries towards the online realm has created job titles such as “Community Manager” or “User Experience (UX) Professional” – titles that, several decades ago, would sound alien and trivial. This, in effect, shows another facet of technology’s growing influence in development discourse. It has decentralized the burden of development from one or a selected few of industries or professions and branched it out to several different functions that all contribute to growth and innovation. This phenomenon of specialization then paves the way for more people, even those in the entry level or in the lower rungs of the organizational ladder, to foster and develop skills that are best fit to their line of work.

Another important point that the World Development Report makes is that a huge chunk of today’s jobs exists outside the labour market. That is, a lot of working people nowadays are not in a formal employer-employee relationship. In fact, figures cited in the report say that while 1.6 billion people work for a wage or salary, nearly as many, namely 1.5 billion, are working in farming and self employment, domains that are usually not considered part of the labour market.

What these insights tell us is that jobs, like everything else in this fickle world, change alongside the changing assets and needs of different countries. What is essential for policy makers and employers (or businesses) is to keep their decisions and policies in line with what their particular economic context really needs, and not just merely follow the trends that proved to be effective in other business environments.

Knut Nylænde, an investor by profession, is an avid follower of contemporary issues in economics, development, and culture. Currently based in the bustling city of Oslo in Norway, Knut is the founder and CEO of Moxie AS, a global and dynamic investments firm.