Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth; full and productive employment; and decent work for all.
The digital economy is creating a greater demand for digital skills. The enabling technology is already available: 3.87 billion people – or 49% of the world population – have Internet access. And 95% of the population has cellphone signal coverage. These technologies are helping to level the enormous inequality in wages between emerging and developed countries. They also connect people anywhere to the global marketplace and offer enhanced opportunities for growth and prosperity. However, more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, particularly for young people; reduce the gender pay gap and promote safe and secure working environments to ensure decent work for all.
In Europe, around 15 million young people between the ages 20 and 34 were considered neither employed nor in an educational or training program (NEET) in 2018. This group of youth is especially vulnerable to economic shocks and crises. After the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, the percentage of NEETs in Europe jumped to 18.5% in 2009. The rate of increase slowed to a more modest pace through 2013, when it reached 20.1%, before decreasing back to its 2008 level of 16,5% in 2018.
These young people are missing out on the opportunity to learn and acquire skills, knowledge, and competencies they could use throughout their lives to participate more fully in a prosperous and inclusive society.
One year later in 2019, 20 international companies joined the Global Alliance for YOUth at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Originally founded by Nestlé S.A. in Europe in 2014 with the purpose of helping prepare young people to enter the professional world, the global success of the project led to its expansion, with corporate leaders joining across multiple industry sectors.
According to the World Economic Forum, over 60% of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not exist yet. At the same time, The World Bank estimates that 60% of the world’s population remains excluded from the ever-expanding digital economy, including 4 billion people around the globe who still lack access to the Internet.
The Global Alliance for YOUth sets out to tackle issues like automation and the global skills gap to build a better future for younger generations. In addition to preparing young people for quality jobs and responsible citizenship, the alliance acts as an open employment marketplace, offering opportunities for interested and flexible young people. The digital nature of the approach also includes massive open online courses (MOOCs). With free access to education, young professionals can prepare for job opportunities in both the classic as well as the digital economy.
There is more that information technology can do. The digital economy is creating a greater demand for digital skills. The enabling technology is already available: 3.87 billion people – or 49% of the world population – have Internet access. And 95% of the population has cellphone signal coverage. So, what is keeping Amira, who lives with her family in Indonesia, from working remotely as a website designer or graphical presentation expert? The only thing she is missing is access to international buyers.
Upwork, an open global exchange platform for digital services and goods, closes this gap. Independent of their physical location, people can bid for smaller work projects, such as a last-minute Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. Or, based on their skills, people can bid on even larger Upwork projects, such as developing a Web site.
This approach is helping to level the enormous inequality in wages between emerging and developed countries. At the same time, it connects people anywhere – including many of today’s youth – to the global marketplace, offering them enhanced opportunities to grow and prosper.
As much as digitization offers new job opportunities in a connected world, history seems to repeat itself. Similar to the job losses on the shop floor during the first and second technology revolutions, today machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) affect a wide range of highly skilled white-collar workers. Whenever patterns drive decisions, machines can make those decisions faster and better than humans. For stock trading or even cancer diagnosis, this is an accepted fact. But what about customer service using natural-language processing and chat bots? Real-time translation services or creating the next collection of T-shirts? Applications of machine learning and AI are increasingly being tested to substitute what are commonly thought of as highly creative jobs. The debate over whether the creation of “new” jobs will outweigh the losses of “old” jobs is not yet concluded. But there is common agreement that significant upskilling and transformation toward new digital expertise is required.
Reskilling people into jobs where human empathy is the key differentiator against technology, like teaching or health care, will play a major role. To pay for this impactful societal work and compensate for the reduced income taxes due to jobs losses through robots, Bill Gates even suggests a robot tax.
Slavery was abolished centuries ago, yet it continues around the world. It is estimated that there are more than 40 million forced laborers as well as 150 million child laborers in global supply chains today. Forced labor ranges from conflict minerals in the Congo and fishing in Thailand to migrant workers in the United States and North America.
These laborers are forced to work for little or no pay and, in some cases, under the threat of violence. The majority are exploited for manual economic labor in the private sector, under conditions they did not agree to, for someone else’s profit. Despite the widespread illegality of slavery, profit estimates from slavery are as high as US$150 billion.
Fighting the criminal methods of slavery directly is very difficult. However, creating transparency of products produced through slavery enables consumers to make a conscious decision with everything they buy. For instance, Made in a Free World (MIAFW) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2012, aiming to combat human trafficking by enabling companies to eradicate forced labor in their connected and integrated supply chains.
Based on MIAFW, FRDM was founded as a company, offering a database that maps the bills of materials of countless products and services in order to track their raw materials and labor sources. Imagine connecting FRDM data with the insights of historical and real-time intelligence from hundreds of global government, business, and other data sources in a global sourcing and procurement network. Based on such combined information, companies could make conscious decisions about their suppliers, eliminating products made with slave labor throughout their entire supply chain.
At SAP, our vision and purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Our technology is helping organizations like FRDM tackle the challenges of eliminating modern-day slavery from supply chains. For instance, SAP Ariba solutions are helping FRDM leverage the powerful community of more than 2 million companies that use Ariba Network. These organizations, which drive nearly US$1 trillion in commerce on an annual basis, will soon be able to identify businesses that use slave labor in their supply chains.
Cloud-based solutions like the SAP Rural Sourcing Management solution facilitate sustainable economic development in countries like Uganda, which is leveraging digital agriculture to grow its middle class. Agriculture continues to be the most important sector for the country, providing a major source of employment and wealth creation as well as food. Together with the farming collective Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust (KOPGT), SAP created a digital platform that grants farmers affordable access to global market prices and data on palm oil demand. The platform provides integrated sales as well as reliable payment services.
Furthermore, SAP is strengthening its support of the social enterprise sector by making it easier for organizations to find and do business with certified social enterprises on Ariba Network. SAP is the official technology partner of Social Enterprise UK, the expert body for the UK’s social enterprise sector. Together, we aim to facilitate better connections between corporate buyers and other employees with social enterprises, helping them spend better and in a more socially and environmentally sustainable way. The potential of this partnership is substantial. Globally, Ariba Network supports 2.3 times more commerce than Amazon, Alibaba and eBay combined. SAP believes greater corporate procurement from social enterprises is key to improving the social and environmental impact of business.
As a culture-centric business, MOD Pizza is focused on positive social impact. This includes providing opportunities to people who otherwise face barriers for steady employment. For instance, those exiting the justice system, individuals with intellectual development disabilities, and 18- to 24-year-old youths who are neither in school nor working. SAP Success Factors solutions support MOD Pizza to manage a diverse and inclusive workforce, following its people-first purpose. Starting with above-industry pay and hiring people with special needs, up to including people in need of a second chance.
NAF, a national network of education, business, and community leaders, brings job opportunities to high school students: They support kids and students in underserved communities. NAF’s educational design ignites students’ passion for learning and gives businesses the opportunity to shape America’s future workforce. NAF is gradually transforming the learning environment to include STEM infused industry-specific curricula and work-based learning experiences. To increase their impact and reach millions of students, they use innovative SAP technology, especially SAP SuccessFactors.
Despite the great opportunities digitalization holds to provide decent work, there are concerns about its potential negative effects on employment. The core competency of SAP over the last 47 years has focused, and continues to focus, on business process improvement and automation. This purpose goes hand in hand with SAP’s sense of responsibility to create software solutions that complement the workforce’s tasks. These solutions are designed to make lives safer and support workers as they provide positive social and environmental services to their customers.
CenterPoint Energy chose to implement the incident management capabilities of the SAP Environment, Health, and Safety Management to capture leading-indicator safety data to help prevent incidents and injuries. The system was a key component of a very successful strategy to increase employee participation as evidenced by the usage statistics and also the large number of observation records entered. All of this data coming in allows safety teams to mitigate risks, solve problems, and ultimately show significant decreases in safety incidents.
With the increasing incorporation of machine learning and AI into standard business processes, responsible digitalization requires a guiding compass. Which technology applications are to be supported by SAP, and where may these applications conflict with our values?
SAP’s nine guiding principles for AI provide the foundational framework for our application innovation. In close discourse with the SAP AI Ethics Advisory Panel, made up of a group of external experts from various related fields, our principles will continue to evolve over time.
Together with the European Union’s High-Level Expert Group on artificial intelligence, we furthermore shared insights and took the dialogue further in a free online course on openSAP: “Creating Trustworthy and Ethical Artificial Intelligence”.