Spotlight: B20 Saudi Arabia Future of Work & Education Taskforce

16 April 2020
Dr. Ilham Mansour Al-Dakheel


Dr. Ilham Mansour Al-Dakheel

What does it mean to you personally to head the B20 Future of Work & Education Taskforce?

Leading the taskforce on the Future of Work & Education is incredibly important to me, as I have devoted much of my professional life to the advancement of education across age, race, gender and social groups. Saudi Arabia has made rapid strides to create equity in employment and education. To be the leader of this taskforce as Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 for the first time is an honor.

I have experience in both the private and public sectors working on matters of education and employment. Forms of employment and requirements of skills are changing fast with the rapidly transforming business environment. These are global issues affecting developed and developing countries. With the help of the co-chairs, taskforce members and partners, I am working to propose policy recommendations of this taskforce to the G20.

I hope to drive the conversation about employment, skills and education into the new decade as we embrace automation and gender equality at the workplace. The future of work and education is going to prepare our society to prosper. The goal is to advocate policies that train the next generation for the workforce and retrain those in jobs that are at risks due to automation.

I am incredibly proud to chair the Future of Work & Education Taskforce. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we drive these issues to the forefront of policy agenda.

Can you provide an overview of the priorities for your taskforce?

The Future of Work & Education Taskforce will address persistent challenges such as unemployment and poverty, inequalities and inefficiencies in labor markets, education, training and job opportunities. The arrival of the fourth industrial revolution accelerates the urgency to address these deficiencies. The G20 needs to prepare effectively for the impending technological, economic and demographic challenges. The taskforce has identified three priority themes:

  • Building confidence and resilience in future labor markets
  • Enabling dynamic labor markets that promote decent work for all
  • Designing future-ready human capital.

What are the goals of your taskforce?

The aim for the B20 Saudi Arabia Future of Work & Education Taskforce is to develop recommendations in order to successfully drive policy for work and education. The broader purpose of the B20 is to serve as the voice of the private sector to ensure we form consensus-based policy recommendations in line with the priorities set forth by the Saudi G20 Presidency.

The Future of Work & Education Taskforce will propose policies that tackle challenges of unemployment and underemployment, as well as increase labor force participation and provide quality education for all. These policies should drive the economies toward dynamic and responsible labor markets, as well as education and training systems to ensure our societies are fit for the future.

What is your taskforce doing to address the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Currently, full or partial lockdown measures are affecting almost 2.7 billion workers, representing 81% of the world’s workforce. As of April 1, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) new global estimates indicate that working hours will decline by 6.7% in the second quarter of 2020, which is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.

However, the new reality of forced work from home in order to retain jobs and online education could fast track the transition to digital technologies. Organizations are realizing the benefits as well as the challenges of digital technologies in the workplace and classroom, therefore accelerating the transition from traditional work and education. We are pushing policy that makes governments bridge the digital divide so access to quality education online is not out of bounds for the disadvantaged.

Yet, even before COVID-19, labor markets as well as education and training systems were unprepared for the disruption of the fourth industrial revolution, climate change, new forms of work and other macro trends. As it stands, there is a high risk the increase in the global number of unemployed at the end of 2020 will be significantly higher than the initial projections by the ILO. As we work our way through this crisis and into a phase of revival, there will be a focus on transitioning the unemployed into new jobs and the opportunity to ensure training, re-skilling and workforce transition efforts. As we design programs and initiatives to prepare workers for that revival, we have the opportunity to intensify efforts to close the skills gaps that have persistently remained a top challenge for businesses the world over. These efforts will particularly work to support the sectors most affected by COVID-19, such as accommodation and food services, real estate, manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, making up 37.4% of the global workforce according to the ILO. Such a strategy demands collaboration between government, business and civil society to anticipate future skills needs, and investments in the mechanisms to adapt the workforce towards those needs. Those mechanisms include training and lifelong learning systems as well as job transition support. A truly resilient and sustainable approach also requires us to upgrade education systems to ensure that the pipeline of future workers is aligned to future labor and skill demands.

We must also consider the effect the current economic halt is having on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). These businesses are the largest job creators and will require a crisis fund to ensure their survival in these unexpected times. COVID-19 has also put restrictions on the movement of human and intellectual capital around the world, so G20 countries must not stifle the movements of these people after this crisis had ended. COVID-19 has created an unprecedented environment for professional and educational organizations, but in the aftermath of this crisis, great strides can be made to improve our current systems to drive the future of work and education.

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