An adaptive national system: what can be done to help the people of Bangladesh navigate future jobs and skills?

By Geoff Mulgan and Anir Chowdhury, February 2020

When we see a storm coming, we do our best to prepare. The next two decades are likely to bring some very big threats for jobs right across the world. For millions this will be equivalent to a storm, flood or drought. Yet many individuals, firms and nations are not preparing. We must prepare not only because we must address the threats but also because these threats are coupled with unprecedented opportunities.

This short blog shares some ideas on how Bangladesh could create a shared, living, national system for responding to these challenges, providing workers, businesses and the nation with accurate understanding of the current facts, critical future trends and guidance on how to respond. It links to work we are doing with the UNDP and a2i, Bangladesh government’s flagship public innovation program, to explore the potential of an adaptive system for jobs and skills in the country.

The problems and challenges

Technological change has been transforming jobs for two centuries and more. Jobs constantly appear, disappear and mutate. But the pressures may be accelerating along with the various factors sometimes described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These are just some of the factors:

How to respond — possible building blocks for a new adaptive national system

These points are widely accepted. But few countries are yet acting in response to them, for example in their schooling systems. Why is it so difficult to respond? We’ve already suggested some of the barriers, from lack of awareness the challenge of motivation given that gaining new skills usually involves costs in terms of time and provision, inconvenience and uncertain returns. Fixing these problems isn’t going to be easy.

In the Asia-Pacific region, we are interpreting the renewed mandate for innovation as an opportunity to reframe: follow us and contribute as we explore