Across the developing world, globalization and technology are reshaping entire economies—and dramatically changing their labor markets: In many regions, the short-term “gig economy” is becoming the status quo, offering new opportunities for remote work but raising questions about basic rights and benefits.
As the pace of these changes speeds up, the need for radically new approaches to training and employment is also growing. To drive innovation in these fields, the Brookings Institution convened a unique roundtable this month—to examine the future of work in the developing world and answer key questions: How will the nature of work change in the next 15 years? How can workers and companies from developing economies compete more aggressively in global markets? What are the most promising innovations to support skills acquisition, job matching, and talent identification?
Together with senior leaders from USAID’s Global Development Lab, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, UNDP, and the Omidyar Network, Souktel led discussions on digital job-matching platforms—drawing on its experience delivering these solutions in countries from Rwanda to Iraq. In a panel moderated by the director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Responsibility Initiative, Souktel CEO Jacob Korenblum spoke alongside LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue on the potential of mobile and web to create more efficient labor markets.
“From our experience designing these platforms for USAID projects in 10+ countries, we’ve seen first-hand how digital solutions reduce job-search costs and lead to more gender-equitable labor markets,” Korenblum explained. “Especially in the Middle East, the proportion of female job-seekers on our digital platforms is far higher than the proportion of women in national labor forces. To us, this suggests that tech-based job-search tools may help close the gender gap”.
With roundtable participants ranging from Facebook executives to the CEO of Mercy Corps and past USAID Administrators, the event captured key perspectives from the private sector, non-profit sector, and government. Looking ahead, thought leaders from Peru to Pakistan committed to working jointly on new initiatives that leverage technology to boost employment across borders.
One immediate product of the event is a new Brookings research paper, “Realizing the Potential of Digital Job-Seeking Platforms,” which highlights the work of Souktel and other leaders in the employment and economic growth sectors. It notes: “By working together, investors, donors, innovators, and others can help ensure that [these technologies] lead to more efficient labor markets and, through them, to inclusive economic growth and more equitable societies”. Now, the key next step is for “stakeholders…to take coordinated action” to turn this potential into reality.