Column: 21st Century Workforce Development

September 21, 2015

[Opinion column written by Shadow Minister for Human Affairs, Rolfe Commissiong]

On Wednesday the 16th of September I had the distinct honour in speaking to the members and guests of the venerable Sandys Rotary Club.

The invite which was facilitated by Sir John Swan and extended by the President of the Club, Mr. Dennis Tucker, provided an intimate forum for me to discuss the profound structural change to the nature and composition of our labour market that is having a less than appreciated impact on Bermuda, its economy and the world at large.

Rolfe Commissiong 1509 2aa

However, this structural change, unlike the former – which began during during the late 1980’s – and which saw the demise of our resort style tourism sector and the concomitant rise of Bermuda as a global off shore insurance and risk management hub; is one that is being largely driven by the increasing deployment of labour saving advanced technologies which as trends confirm, are increasingly resulting in the total elimination of jobs that once provided decent wages and benefits for many.

These technologies as exemplified by various forms of automation, robotics, AI [artificial intelligence], 3D printing and the deployment of algorithms and their impact – as noted -represents our present reality and not some far off future. In other words, the future is now.

It is estimated that just over three thousand jobs were eliminated in Bermuda between the year 2000 and 2012 and as economist Doug Soares has stated, many of those jobs were lost due to the adoption and deployment of these technologies in our economy.

He also asserts, based upon the available data, that most of those jobs were eliminated prior to the onset of the great recession.

Translation: that throughout the greatest economic boom in Bermuda’s history between 2000 to 2007 we were shedding the type of jobs that represented traditional blue collar and entry level occupations that will never be coming back.

And this is a trend that will only intensify over the next decade. And if left unchecked it will continue to erode our middle class, increase the levels of income inequality as it is doing in other jurisdictions and further undermine our social cohesion in ways that we have not seen for many years. Will this be the new normal?

There is a growing consensus that Bermuda’s ability to navigate through this challenge along with that posed by an ageing population will be determinative in terms of our ability to arrest these trends and maintain and even enhance our competitive advantage in the global context.

The members of Sandys Rotary get it. My colleagues and I in the Progressive Labour Party also get it and have put forward a comprehensive and progressive reform agenda in this regard, that among other things will bring education and workforce development into its proper 21st Century context.

But we need for more and more Bermudians to get it and mobilize for change as the world of work that we and our parents once knew and the certainties that it represented, recedes steadily from view.

- Rolfe Commissiong


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Comments (22)

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  1. Vulcan Trash Cleaner says:

    Absolute BULL!…over 6000 jobs were lost due to the plp’s reign of terror as it has become known as.
    Bermuda is slowly pulling itself out of the mess the plp made regardless of the lies the plp will try to say.

    • kangoocar says:

      @vulcan, totally agree!!! The funny thing is the plp keep using the worldwide recession to hide their incompetence, but to this day have totally ignored the FACT that all those companies that left are doing just fine elsewhere??? The plp have no scruples and have no problem lying either??? The sad part is, their support base is not intelligent enough to understand the game the plp played with their own livelyhoods!!!!!

      • mixitup says:

        The plp have no scruples and have no problem lying either??? The sad part is, their support base is not intelligent enough to understand the game the plp played with their own livelyhoods!!!!!

        Just worth repeating so everyone is clear who and what types they are dealing with…you make this far too easy.

        • kangoocar says:

          Mixitup, you are definetly cut from the plp cloth??? Anyone with any intelligence would clearly see you cherry picked parts of what I said and wrote what your sheeple would believe!!! Nice try but bigger fail!!! The truth stings the likes of you doesn’t it??? Just worth repeating so everyone is clear who and what types we are dealing with…. You actually make it even easier for me!!!!! More plp nonsense and miss-leading from you and your plp!!!

    • Truth Teller says:

      Hey, take it up with Doug Soares. It’s clear that Commissiong is only quoting the economist.

      Are you saying that Soares is PLP too?

      The tea party lives (in Bermuda too it appears).

      • hmmm says:

        the 3000 jobs would not be when the PLP were causing their havoc…they would have been gradual and over the PLP terms.

        the tech changes also created new jobs, so there would have been some offset there on the 3000.

        sadly Rolfie is implying that the PLP had nothing to do with job losses, which is clearly a cheap attempt to rewrite history.

        • Justsaying says:

          Did we not go thorough a boom, a period of record high numbers of people in the job force…and a bust a downsizing in IB which extended to the local supporting Businesses, All under a PLP Administration……..
          . many on here appear to only focused on the bust….In doing that are you saying the PLP cause the global recession.

          Didn’t the OBA campaign on the fact that even during the boom period… I believe it was the Former OBA Premier, that said a brain drain was happening, with Professional Bermudian, losing employment, and going oversees for opportunities….. although they never gave a definitive explanation of why this was happening…..

          Rolfe at least be offering an explanation…that is consistent with others in the community..

    • Coffee says:

      Maybe true , but many , many more were created between ’98 and ’09 .

      • Spit Bouy says:

        Thanks for the laugh Coffee. It’s so funny listening to the PLP & their supporters, they tout that Bermuda’s booming economy was down to them but the slide was because of the world wide recession. Delusional at best.

        Actually many many more jobs would’ve been created between 95 (end of the previous recession) and 09. The thing is all of that was because of the IB boom that was in place under the UBP which kicked into overdrive during the booming world wide economy. It certainly had nothing to do with the PLP’s tenure of Government.

        The flight of many of those same IB jobs was always going to happen with the recession & the changing business structures, however the PLP’s ham fisted policy’s made it much worse than it had to be.

        There fixed it for you.

      • Spectator says:

        And during that period, Bermudians lost jobs while jobs for non-Bermudians grew.

      • hmmm says:

        The PLP hold the record for the most foreign workers brought to the island. Most were not international business !

  2. hmmm says:

    Where is this comprehensive reform agenda re 21st century…you forgot to attach it Rolfie

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Mr. Commissiong has shown he does have a pretty good grasp for the obvious, he isn’t the first to point out the changing dynamic in global workforce needs… in fact most of what he says comes from articles written over the last decade or more. What he is lacking is solutions, he talks endlessly every chance he can about the PLP comprehensive plan, their Vision 2025… a plan so secret they have yet to release it, because everything I have read from all the Vision 2025 releases doesn’t do anything other than repeatedly state the obvious issues, but don’t include the important details like, what we need to do about it, how much it is going to cost and how are we going to pay for it. It would be great to be able to tackle all the issues that plague us, but the only way to do that right now would be to borrow beyond our means, which means eventually we would collapse and everybody would be up the creek without a paddle.

  3. wondering says:

    So now our political landscape has taken the form of Opinion Column Grandstanding that underpins good governance……

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      So people complain because the OBA don’t communicate about what they are doing, and people complain that the OBA is grand standing with opinion columns communicating what they are doing… seriously… pick one, can’t have them both.

  4. Straight to the Point says:

    The single biggest factor contributing to significant job losses from 2001-2009 was the short sighted, narrow minded, xenophobic policy of the PLP of TERM LIMITS.
    Why don’t you ever admit it?
    It was a mistake and cost our country dearly.

  5. Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

    Did someone mention Agenda21..??

  6. Common Sense says:

    Bermuda was hit by a double whammy; the World wide recession and the disaster of the PLP. We probably could have ridden out either, but both together at the same time may too much for us to recover from.

  7. ding a ling says:

    TO PUT IT SIMPLY. more political plp bull poo poo, expect nothing more from anyone of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. bluebird says:

    The OBA created 8,000 jobs by keeping on the HUGE civil service which we cannot afford.
    The PLP/BIU created 11,300 WorkPermits for outsiders.
    The Bermudian who wants to work is working and you dont hear them complaining.
    The 11,300 work permits are about ONE THIRD of our Labour Force providing revenue for ONE THIRD of our ecconomy.
    Now where are the Bermudians to fill these 11,300 work permit JOBS or are those the ones that Bermudians dont want.
    Please advise which is it.

  9. Acegurl says:

    Mr. Commissiong only ever sees life in black or white. Why read such biased comments?

  10. Terry says:

    Only Mr. Snowden has all the answers to such garbage.

    Think about it.