Smart Dubai Launches ‘The Future of Work’ Report at GITEX Technology Week 2020

  • The report covers five main areas: the evolution of work, the future possibilities of work, the future mindset of work, and the future ways of work, in addition to considerations and questions about the future of work.
  • The study examines future possibilities and potential developments expected to take place and transform the nature of jobs.

Dubai: Smart Dubai has released the ‘Future of Work’ report at GITEX Technology Week 2020 – a study that explores future possibilities of work; the potential developments expected to transform the nature of jobs; the mindset shifts that are driving these possibilities; as well as the evolving structural changes that are redefining the human-workplace dynamic.

GITEX Technology Week is holding its 40th edition at the Dubai World Trade Centre from December 6-10, 2020, where Smart Dubai’s pavilion, themed ‘Inspiring New Realities’, brings together 20 government entities to showcase advanced solutions being built by Dubai Government to accelerate the city’s digital transformation.

His Excellency Abdullah Ali bin Zayed Al Falasi, Director General of the Dubai Government Human Resources Department (DGHR), asserted Dubai’s readiness to tackle the challenges and rapid developments taking place around the world, whether due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Institutions in Dubai played a great role in forecasting the future…the Dubai Future Foundation carried out studies and research and came up with results that were forwarded to decision-makers,” H.E. Al Falasi said. “The DGHR also conducted studies and research, organized workshops, launched programs to anticipate the future of jobs in the medium and long term, and developed plans and strategies to deal with the evolving labor market. Meanwhile, Smart Dubai played an important and distinct role with its ‘Future of Work’ report.”

The DGHR Director General explained that the rapid developments resulting from AI make it imperative for everyone to focus on education and expand its scope. “There must be a system to provide opportunities for the acquisition and development of skills; authorities should also support the self-employment economy, which has grown significantly thanks to access to the Internet,” H.E. noted, citing the ‘Khbrati’ platform for self-employment that DGHR launched to allow UAE citizens to highlight their skills, talents, and experience to find appropriate job opportunities. 

For his part, H.E. Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai, and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment, said: “Smart Dubai has been entrusted with a mission to spearhead and expand Dubai’s digital transformation, and lead the emirate’s efforts to embrace promising and advanced new technologies to build a pioneering, full-fledged smart city. Our team is at the fore of the emirate’s efforts to forecast and shape the future today. We are the government entity working to establish Dubai as the smartest and happiest city on Earth, and with that in mind, we are particularly keen on exploring what the future labor market will look like.”

“In the ‘Future of Work’ report, Smart Dubai explores the challenges and opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings to the employment market, offering pertinent data and eye-opening insight for all decision-makers and stakeholders involved,” H.E. Al Nasser added. “The Smart Dubai team brings its extensive expertise in exploring advanced technologies and their effects on various aspects of people’s lives. Focusing our efforts on analyzing and forecasting the future of work in light of these technologies offers us insight into the future labor market, which affects all other city sectors.”

The ‘Future of Work’ report covers five main areas: the evolution of work, the future possibilities of work, the future mindset of work, and the future ways of work, in addition to considerations and questions about the future of work. 

Evolution of Work

The report begins with an overview of past industrial revolutions and their effect on work and humanity as a whole. From the First Industrial Revolution, which began towards the end of the 18th century, and was marked by the advent of the steam engine and mechanical manufacturing, and all the way to the Fourth Industrial Revolution we are witnessing today, which has been marked by unprecedented breakthroughs in cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). Each of those revolutions leading up to the 4th were faced with fear and resistance in the beginning but were welcomed eventually as they had propelled the human race forward.  

Future Possibilities of Work

The ‘Future of Work’ report explores how the internet has allowed talented individuals (musicians, actors, artists, etc.) to no longer be dependent on middlemen or the preferences of production houses, distribution companies, or networks. It takes the example of Spotify as a prominent case study in that regard. The music streaming platform has allowed independent artists to generate USD600 million in revenue in 2018. 

The report goes on to explore the Sharing Economy, where the internet paved the way for the concept of peer-to-peer sharing and benefitting from each other’s underutilized assets, and potentially even monetizing them. The study focuses on vacation rental online marketplace Airbnb, which has grown to host 7m worldwide listings, allowing hosts to make an average monthly income of USD924. A new way to make an income and pay the bills.  

In the same vein, the report explores the idea of digital ‘solopreneurship’, where people are moving away from traditional entrepreneurship and looking towards the internet for ways to make money through various business models, such as affiliate marketing or e-commerce. The USA alone was home to 40m ‘solopreneurs’ in 2019. A case study in the report focuses on Fulfillment by Amazon, which has made selling online extremely seamless, and the platform has processed USD41.1bn in merchandise volume in 2018.

Furthermore, the report looks into the gig economy, taking freelancing platform Upwork Inc. as an example, which has 14 million users and posts USD1bn in annual freelancer billings. The gig economy is a free-market system where organizations hire independent workers for short-term commitments. The size of the gig economy skyrocketed to USD204bn in 2018 and is projected to grow by 17% by 2023.

The above examples demonstrate some of the most cutting edge and emerging possibilities of work that people are looking into today in order to make a living while balancing a healthy lifestyle. 

Looking at automation, the report reveals that, according to several studies, 30% of current jobs are at potential risk of being automated by 2030, while other reports indicate that automation will contribute USD15 trillion to the global GDP by 2030.

Future Mindset of Work

The ‘Future of Work’ report goes on to explore shifting attitudes towards work in general, where stable employment, safe career paths, and the concept of a ‘job for life’ have lost their allure, especially among millennials and Gen-Z. Indeed, 43% of millennials say they envision leaving their job in 2 years. 

Another notable trend can be found among people of retirement age, where the mentality of “freedom from work” gave way to a mentality of “freedom to work”. People are increasingly looking forward to retirement in order to continue contributing to society in a meaningful way. More than a third (38%) of respondents to a survey said they prefer to continue working after the retirement age. Countries like Japan, where 30% of the population is above 60 years of age, have even raised the retirement age to 70.

Future Ways of Work

The way we work today is radically different from the practices that were in place even a decade ago. And this trend is projected to continue and accelerate in the years ahead. Remote work had been growing in popularity for years, where the remote workforce grew by 159% since 2005. And in 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, it became the norm almost overnight as governments around the world implemented lockdowns and restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. 

While countries are slowly emerging out of confinement, remote work is likely to continue growing, with 9 out of 10 remote workers saying they would rather continue working remotely for the rest of their careers. The report takes a closer look at WeWork as an example. WeWork – an American commercial real estate company that designs and builds physical and virtual shared spaces and office services – now has 400,000 members spread across 400 locations in 99 cities and 26 countries. Valued at USD40bn, the company serves prominent clients such as Google, Twitter, GE, and IBM.

Technology has also allowed business to source their talent globally without worrying about the logistics of hiring and onboarding, thanks to digital platforms like UltiPro, Hubstaff, and fiverr.

Considerations and Questions

The ‘Future of Work’ report concludes with a section that looks into considerations for various stakeholders in the labor market going forward, including governments, organizations, the education sector, employers, and companies. The section poses pertinent practical and ethical questions, ranging from how organizations can retain young talent to how to preserve the rights of gig workers and more.