What I learned by watching Davos from afar

One of my dreams is to be paid to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It’s the best place to network with famous leaders and the guests there this year included President Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg.

When I worked at the BBC, I was always jealous of colleagues who were assigned as journalists to Davos. Now I am a freelance reporter, it’s out of my price range as conference registration, travel and a hotel room are all incredibly expensive.

Fortunately, I can get a taste of what’s being debated through the media.

Climate change and its economic impact was the most discussed topic at Davos 2020.

Jiji Press reported that the Bank of Japan Governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, said Japan’s economy probably fell into negative growth in October-December 2019, partly due to damage from a series of powerful typhoons which struck the country.

World of work

Another point of discussion was the impact of technology on work.

Jonas Prising, the chairman of the huge international personnel company Manpower, told the conference that “we are currently in a very good period for labour markets globally.”

He claimed that rather than reducing job opportunities, technology is creating jobs. “Automation and technology is having a very positive impact in terms of overall job growth,” said Mr Prising.

Yet he also noted that there are some people who are frustrated because they don’t have the right set of skills to take advantage of globalisation.

Immigration opportunities

Japan has a low unemployment rate – only 2.2 percent in November 2019 – so there is much talk about bringing in more foreigners to fill some of the vacancies.

Mr Prising said: “Demographic rates and birth rates are dropping all over the world, so many countries need immigration. It is important to ensure the health of the labour market and to enable economic growth,” he said.

My friend Yuuichiro Nakajima from Crimson Phoenix was invited onto the BBC to talk about Japan’s tight labour market this week.

He explained that managers are having to make some tough decisions, such as cutting the opening hours for restaurants, petrol stations and convenience stores.

Mr Nakajima said that that the government is trying to encourage immigrants to come to work in Japan, so it is issuing more visas, especially to skilled foriegn workers.

The role of women

He also explained that many more women are now part of the workforce than previously.

“I think there is a bit of a conundrum there, because the more women, especially the younger ones, you encourage to enter, or remain, in the labour market, the less likely they are to produce offspring, or to put off having children to a later age,” said Mr Nakajima.

He went on: “Unless the government encourages women to be productive in terms of producing more children as well as be productive in the labour market, then I think we are going to continue to be in a bind.”