Jorge Ponga
Humanologo Consulting
Expert Contributor

Living in a ‘Liquid World’

By Jorge Ponga | Wed, 03/03/2021 - 15:31

Life-expectancy in 1960 was around 52 years. By 1980, it had grown to 62 years and according to the UN, by 2020, it was around 80 years. However, access to health is unequal between countries and economic sectors.

Baby boomers and Generation X change jobs around four to six times in their working life, while it is estimated that millennials will change jobs around 14 times. Does this mean we are losing the commitment to work? Are new generations less attached to their jobs and more committed to themselves?

According to the OIT, there are more cellphones than humans. There are around about 8 billion lines, 103 percent with respect to the world's population, but there is 50 percent internet access globally. That implies a large access gap to digital sources in many countries.

These numbers lead us to believe that we live in a “liquid world,” a world that moves at a high but uneven speed, alerting us to the big risks that humanity will face in 2021.

In the World Economic Forum’s 16th edition of its report, “The Global Risks 2021,” various issues are highlighted that represent challenges that could be faced. In this case, I will focus on two that are key: employability and digital gaps. Both are key to living a life worthy of human beings.


In the second quarter of 2020, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a loss in working hours around the world equal to 495 million jobs, which will generate labor inequity, underemployment and unemployment, among other issues.

Seventy percent of the female workforce in the nine most powerful economies in the world think their career will stagnate, while 51 percent of young students in 128 countries consider that their educational progress will be halted.

Precarious working conditions and lack of social security will aggravate the living conditions of 2 billion workers operating in the world's informal economy.

Not all governments are prepared to face these challenging conditions, not only because of lack of resources but because of capability. This clearly represents a moment of truth for the organizations that take leadership on the subject of social responsibility through innovation and creativity in the generation and preservation of the workforce in all senses.

Resources such as home office, the use of technologies and the growth of productivity will be key in the permanence — or lack of it — of the companies that aspire to continue their operations.

Digital Barriers

This leads me to analyze another great topic: "digital inclusion" and the opportunities it offers.

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is digital. Online education has presented both challenges and big advancements for the educational model and its adoption. E-commerce has consolidated and has become part of the day-to-day life of many people around the world. And in many cases, remote work is here to stay.

At the same time these advancements have stretched the digital inequality gap, which, although not new, is larger now.

The digital gap is sometimes caused by the absence of basic things such as internet access and the physical mechanisms of use or through cases where the governments of some countries themselves block or censor internet activities, limiting accessibility to evolution.

An issue that is closely linked to the digital gap is education. Vulnerable groups are recognized to be seriously affected in terms of the opportunities to access education, which will leave them without the functional skills needed to insert themselves into job sources.

There is no record of job losses in any of the three previous industrial revolutions; on the contrary, more labor sources were generated. This time, it is estimated that 85 million jobs will be automated in the next five years, which poses a challenge in the generation of new skills in the workforce. This is a serious topic for reflection on the future of work.

As leaders of organizations, governments or communities, we must reflect on how to contribute intelligently to this transition. As individuals, the reflection should focus on what capacities we should grow or create. Let's not leave the task of learning in the hands of any one person or institutions or organizations; it is a task for ourselves, that must be exercised through incessant intellectual curiosity.

Photo by:   Jorge Ponga