Despite rapid technological advances which were highly compressed over the last decade, inherited inequalities and intergenerational mobility remain a grave concern. In the IDB Working Paper #452 titled “Intergenerational Mobility in Latin America” (2001, p. 34), written by Jere R. Behrman, Alejandro Gaviria, and Miguel Székely, it is argued that economic growth alone is insufficient to equalize opportunity.

The authors contend that primary data does not depict a positive picture of the distribution of opportunity and that socioeconomic success, whether indicated by academic achievement or occupation, remains hinged to habitus. At the time of the publication of “Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in Plantation Economies of the Third World,” (1972), by Professor Beckford, the state was the driver of economic growth for many emerging economies.

However, new roles and responsibilities are emerging for bureaucracies everywhere. Areas of economic control that previously fell within the national economic compass of the state, such as the regulation of capital flows, are now hostage to the hypermobility of capital and finance powered by platform markets, Decentralized Finance (DeFi), Neobanks, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), and Open Finance.

Since the publication of “Persistent Poverty”, the world economy and global society have changed radically. Economic concentration has intensified. The geopolitics of unfair competition, overconcentration, and monopolization, and the demographics of digital life, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, constitute a unique cluster of challenges. They create an uneasiness about tomorrow – our livelihoods, our well-being, and our lives.

Over the last quarter of a century, humans experienced no fewer than five major crises which have had global consequences for lives and livelihoods. These events have altered public perception of the ability of the multilateral system to respond to societies’ most pressing problems. For social justice to prevail in the global world, well-being and freedom to live a decent human life will become the ultimate objective of the economy. 

The ILOs’ advocacy of a more human-centred policy approach to reducing the vulnerabilities of economies and societies amidst geopolitical tensions, financial deregulation, and a global pandemic is laudable. This approach is key to advancing social justice and putting well-being at the heart of economic development. And so, understanding the well-being of individuals, inherited inequalities, and intergenerational mobility can offer fresh insights into improving lives.

The “World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2023” from the ILO noted that in 2022, about 214 million workers were living in extreme poverty. They were earning less than US$1.90 per day per person in purchasing power parity [PPP] terms, corresponding to around 6.4 per cent of employed people.

Thick data analytics, climate and environmental management technologies, data visualization, encryption, and cybersecurity are predicted to be the largest drivers of job growth. Agriculture technologies, Apps, digital ecosystems like X, e-commerce and digital trade, and AI are expected to result in labour-market disruption according to “The Future of Jobs Report 2023” produced by the WEF.

Flux is now fixed. The constellation of beliefs, techniques, and tools that have brought us to this moment cannot take the youth of today to the threshold of a future that is both impatient and edgy. What is ahead is not a future like the old ones. This future will not loiter. Even stranger is the fact that the Next Network Economy is being built beneath our feet today. It will not tarry for unprepared minds.

Serendipity favours only the prepared mind, and this means that state-space must be created for the youth of today to make a mess.  That is, space must be created to question and challenge the usefulness of every vessel and the direction of every track.

The youth have already brought into sharp focus a distinct ecology of the suffering of the planet and the poor. This lens will only dilate. It will dramatically redefine what we mean by progress and development. The youth are already realigning the tragedies of desertification, asylum, and refuge with the future of work. 

In the collision ahead, the youth will shake structures and break foundations. Millions of youth today cannot reach the uncountable low-hanging fruit available. These fruits are far out of reach. Too high. So they pick up whatever they find. Millions are not at work, or in school. “Ni estudian Ni trabajan”.

But they are awake to the Network Readiness under construction all around them, and are poised for the next phase of mortality, embedded in artificial life. The World Bank report “Out of School and Out of Work” (2016) states that one in five youths aged 15–24 in Latin America is out-of-school and not working.

Beneath the thin veneer of the present calm, there are imperceptible, continuous, and orchestrated movements. Digital Assets will disrupt monopolies of national currencies. Cyberwarfare episodes will touch all topographies. Digital competitiveness will support sectors of economies to migrate from old geographies. Cognitive capitalism will quicken.

Talent and Technology Observatories will cause digital skills and tools to drift along corridors creating value hubs. Value chains will shift to new prototypes of wealth creation. And as this unfolds, levelling conditions are needed to address the reproduction of inherited immobility as delineated in the Report on Economic Development (RED) that was presented in Barbados on August 11th 2023.