WTO: New technology to be blamed for job losses

Azevedo says digital consumerism impacting retail market

15:34 February 13, 2018
 Roberto Azevedo

Dubai: Globalisation and emerging technologies are rapidly morphing world governments, markets and institutions.

The pace is so rapid that old hardware models are failing to keep up with change, said experts Tuesday at World Government Summit in Dubai.

But it’s not too late to meet future challenges for those who step up efforts now to meet the future, they said.

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, said expected job loss in coming years can be attributed more to emerging technology than globalisation — and said his 164-member global group is working hard to embrace change.

Digital consumerism

The old trade networks and systems used to transport goods around the world are still needed. But Azevedo said new digital consumerism is impacting heavily the bricks-and-mortar retail market and its value chains.

“When someone invented the wheel, someone lost a job,” Azevedo said, noting that digital empires such as Amazon are rewriting how people shop and consume goods.

“E-commerce is a reality that is not going to go away, it’s growing faster,” he said. “Business to consumer changes the world completely.”

He said the traditional value chain of shipping goods by containers to retailers then on to consumers is experiencing disruption.

“We’re changing from an era of containers to an era of small packages,” he said. “People need to facilitate this new trade of the soft package or you are going to be left behind.”

Modern dilemmas

Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker journalist and author of five books, also sounded a warning to summit delegates that historic, institutional approaches dating back two or three centuries are not effective enough to meet more modern dilemmas.

“Government institutions are based on models coming from the 19th or 18th centuries,” Gladwell said.

“We expect our governments to provide security, enforce elements of law, and prevent disasters and unforeseen events,” he said. “But there has been a dramatic shift in what people want and need from their governments.”

Gladwell said the problem lies in the inability to identify issues and forge new solutions for today’s problems.

In good old days, Gladwell said governments took the approach of fixing things much akin to assembling a “puzzle” using a set amount of information.

Today, Gladwell asserted that governments are now looking at solving a problem as a “mystery” given that there is so much more information available making it more difficult.