ILO representative visits ISET, discusses labor conditions, automation, & the future
Wednesday, 12 June, 2019

On June 12, ISET hosted Kinan Bahnassi of the International Labor Organization, one of several UN-affiliated bodies active in Georgia. Mr. Bahnassi treated the audience of students, staff, and faculty to an interesting, perceptive, and rather a creative presentation.

Mr. Bahnassi began by explaining that although the ILO presence in Georgia is comparatively small compared to other organizations, it has had a significant impact on the country. He drew particular attention to the lack of a national labor code and the fact that many people working in the country (particularly those in manual jobs) face hazardous conditions. This issue is particularly poignant for Georgians since the loss of life in the building industry and mining is – while not common – still too much of a regular occurrence. However, thanks to the ILO’s efforts, health and safety standards on construction sites will be introduced later this year, with appropriate attire and helmets becoming mandatory.

However, Mr. Bahnassi did not come to ISET solely to speak about the ILO and its activities in Georgia. One of the focuses of his presentation was, in fact, automation, and its observed effects on the world, as well as projections for the future. That it has already had an effect on workplaces is well-known, but Mr. Bahnassi explained that according to researchers at MIT, up to 60% of current jobs will have been replaced within the next half-century. How people adapt to new work environments and roles is a significant challenge facing the planet, especially for countries such as Georgia that already struggle with employment issues.

Mr. Bahnassi tied automation into the current use of apps, and how certain mobile applications have been promoted as giving employment opportunities; most notable amongst these in the West is Uber, while Georgians can access equivalent services in the form of Taxify and Yandex. However, as Mr. Bahnassi explained, these jobs are often lacking in dignity, an important employment aspect for the ILO, and are completely unregulated – with no contracts, those working for these sorts of apps can find their position has been terminated without reason, or they are able to over-work if the need for money is desperate; for example, with no oversight, it is possible for Uber drivers to work unlimited hours and thus risk their own safety and that of their passengers.

The issues raised by Mr. Bahnassi were of significant interest for the audience, as employment and labor conditions in Georgia still urgently need reform and address. Perhaps most striking of all was his detailed analysis of the future; if Western nations are set to lose jobs due to automation, then Georgia must act quickly in order to continue on its path to development.

ISET would like to thank Mr. Bahnassi for taking the time to treat the community to such an interesting and informative presentation.