Geneva, Switzerland, 3 May 2023 – At a time of heightened economic uncertainty, the Growth Summit brought together more than 400 leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, to deepen understanding of the new context for growth and to chart a future of growth that is resilient, sustainable and inclusive.
A new context for jobs and economic growth
Experts are divided about the prospects of a recession in 2023, according to the Chief Economists Outlook, launched at the summit, with 45% expecting a recession and an equal number expecting to avoid one. At the summit, trends that are expected to shape growth most profoundly in the coming year included geo-economics and a changing geography of supply chains, rapid advancement and adoption of technology – including generative AI – and stronger industrial policy, especially measures to enable greener growth and the energy transition.
“Economic growth is necessary, but it’s not an end in itself. The key question is, what kind of growth do we want? The answer is, it must be resilient, equitable and sustainable growth,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
The localization and diversification of supply chains is expected to create a new geography of growth, new jobs and opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises and new entrants. However, the global movement of people and exchange of goods, services, technology and ideas remains fundamental to growth and prosperity for developing economies, addressing inequality, expanding living standards for all and addressing the climate crisis.
“Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere,” said Gilbert Houngbo, Director-General, International Labour Organization.
“We have gone through a big wave of globalization and we have left too many people behind. If you read the story of industrial towns all over the world, people were left behind,” said Sander van ’t Noordende, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Executive Board, Randstad "It’s the right thing to make sure that that doesn’t happen again, and it is needed because we need all hands on deck.”
Nearly a quarter of all jobs – 23% – are also expected to be disrupted over the next four years, according to the Future of Jobs Report, released just ahead of the summit. Sustainability and green investments are expected to be a net job creator while tepid economic growth, supply shortages and high inflation are seen as the biggest risks to job growth. The impact of artificial intelligence was widely debated, with polarized views on its potential for fully displacing lower-skilled, white-collar work or augmenting workers’ productivity in various professions with faster access to knowledge.
Imperative for inclusive, resilient and sustainable growth
Leaders from business, government, unions, academia and civil society agreed that a renewed push for growth is needed to raise living standards across the world. But they also cautioned against focusing solely on GDP growth, calling for greater integration of other urgent priorities including tackling the climate crisis, reducing inequality, building societal resilience and managing the disruptive power of new technologies.
“My hope is that we can find big opportunities from the exploration of alternative drivers of growth, such as intra regionalization, that have been untapped. This is how we keep global growth going,” said Razia Khan, Head of Research and Chief Economist, Africa and Middle East, Standard Chartered Bank.
“There is enormous inequality in productivity,” said Ricardo Hausmann, Founder and Director of the Growth Lab, Harvard University. “People in different locations are baking pies of radically different sizes. The process of development is a process of transformation of the way we do things, the way production is organized so that the whole can be more productive.”
"The pursuit of green technology is in the forefront of our minds,” said Mmusi Kgafela, Minister of Trade and Industry, Botswana. “But it has to be a just transition."
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt, emphasized the need for financing in the developing world. “For just transitions to happen, we need just financings.”
A key element in the new agenda for growth is the need for significant investment in skills in both advanced and emerging economies to build competitiveness and to prepare workers for the jobs of the future.
“AI won’t take your job – it’s someone using AI who will take your job,” said Richard Baldwin, Professor of International Economics, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
“We know the jobs that we'll lose, the jobs that we need and someway we have to make it work" said Claudia Azevedo, Chief Executive Officer of SONAE, as part of a discussion on the importance of closing the skills gap through upskilling and reskilling.
"We are nowhere near where we need to be to meet the scale and the speed of the demand that is coming our way for green skills. We need to start investing now – and heavily – to put the reskilling and upskilling programmes in place needed to meet the climate challenge,” said Sue Duke, Head of Global Public Policy, LinkedIn.
"When you look at care jobs – both childcare and elderly care – we still see elevated demand compared to pre-pandemic levels," said Svenja Gudell, Chief Economist, Indeed.
Leaders also emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion as a channel to both promote equity and to accelerate growth and innovation.
“Diversity of ideas is essential,” said Maria Leptin, President, European Research Council. “You don’t stew in your own juice. If you do, you are not going to discover anything new.”
“Building resilience requires encouraging women and talking about their strengths,” said Zubaida Bai, President and Chief Executive Officer, Grameen Foundation. “Investing in the power of these women is actually what’s going to help build a resilient economy.”
An action agenda for jobs, trade, skills and equity
Over 20 high-impact initiatives were advanced at the summit, with a focus on educating, reskilling and upskilling workers for the future of jobs. These include:
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