Leveraging 'People' Power of Sustainability

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Who Took The Cookie From The Cookie Jar: Significance Of Data Protection In Labour Market Stability

As we know, labour is the primary income generating asset for the majority of a country’s population while on the other side- it is one of the major production factors in all sectors of an economy[1]. Labour market is thus the key engine of an economy and any distortions therein has the potential to affect the well-being of a large part of the society. For instance, unemployment and under-employment has social costs that could lead to losses in human capital; skills-mismatch poses problems for the growth of an economy by reducing productivity etc. Thus, for an economy to grow and sustain the ‘people’ lever of the economy must be in order.

 In our previous snippet, we briefly talked about labour market efficiency while highlighting the World Economic Forum's (2014) concern about skills-mismatch at the global level being a serious issue affecting labour market efficiency wherein large-scale unemployment and talent scarcity co-exist. We raised a few questions as to what are the reasons for such a disparity. Is it skills-mismatch or introduced skills-mismatch or misperceived inefficiencies? What are the implications of labour market inefficiencies on economies? Does anyone prosper from labour market inefficiencies?  

In this snippet ‘Who took the cookie from the cookie jar’, we touch upon the above from a particular angle. We examine the significance of data protection in labour market stability. In plain language, the role ‘data’ and ‘information’ is playing in this digital age and how it is contributing to the labour market (in)stability, skills (mis)matching and (in)efficiency.

Labour Market Data, Information And The Context
The World Bank’s World Development Report 2013 notes, worldwide, more than 3 billion people have jobs  (1.65 billion regular wages/salaries another 1.5 billion work in farming and small household enterprises, 200 million people (large proportion being youth) are unemployed and actively looking for work. Almost 2 billion working-age adults are neither working nor looking for work (majority being women and an unknown number are eager to have a job). The 2013 World Development Report puts 'jobs' at the center of a development process that leads to improved living standards, productivity, and social cohesion[2].

Labour market generates a huge amount of 'data' including personal data. Data, as we know is often referred to as the 'oil of the twenty-first century'[3] and has value in the real world. Labour market data and information is inherent to the success of the labour market and broadly that of the economy. For instance, at the macroscopic level (eg. immigration strategies), if a country is to remain competitive and be able to adapt to the changing economic and social realities, it is necessary for employers, potential workers, businesses, government, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to have access to timely, accurate and relevant information on the labour market[4]. But what if the data/information is compromised and not managed well?

Who Took The Cookie From The Cookie Jar?
A recent Intel Security (2015) report highlighted that labour market data notably customer and employee information, including personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI), were the top two content categories of data that were compromised or leaked to unauthorised users. Interestingly, personal data (that include sensitive PIIs like medical information financial information, and other unique identifiers and non-sensitive PIIs like name, email address etc. that may be gathered from public records, such as websites) was the number one target (62%) of theft which surpasses credit cards theft. The average number of breaches was highest in Asia-Pacific organizations. Organized crime, activists, and nation states were identified 30% more often as external actors in Asia Pacific than in other countries[5]. Often, economic pressures on individuals and the opportunity of monetization of data at the underground market have the ability to create an environment where people with access to information can convert data into cash[6]. Moreover, in the digital age, with access of information at the fingertips, misuse of PIIs has the potential to allow the alternate underground market to flourish by facilitating identity thefts, fraud, and social engineering (or psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information[9]). What damage does it does to the labour market- skills-mismatch, under-employment etc.? Does it have the potential to lead to economic failure?

Economic Failure And Summing Up
Economic failure occurs when there exists an acutely inefficient use of capital and labour leading to financial crisis, unemployment/underemployment, and ultimately breakdown of the economic system. These problems reduce people’s material comfort while diminishing their sense of worth and dignity. According to a ground-breaking research by social scientist Hung-En Sung, "economic failure fuels an underground economy wherein an underground labour market, associated with both the informal and criminal sectors, emerges to supply employment" and what he quotes as, “creating human capital specific to illegality and a social morality supportive of activities outside formal legality”[7],[8].

So, skills mismatch- the labour market issue that concerns the global bodies (notably the World Economic Forum) - could it be introduced or otherwise systemic in nature? Through this snippet, we are just attempting to tease a few grey cells...

End Note- *Cookie- a sweet biscuit, the centrepiece to the innocent nursery rhyme- ‘Who took the cookie from the cookie jar’; whereas in computer terms, Cookie is a small text files, given ID tags that help keeping track of movements within a website.

1. Betcherman, G (2014), Background paper for the World Development Report 2013- Labor Market Institutions: A Review of the Literature.
2. World Bank Group (2014), The World Development Report 2013: Jobs, World Bank, Washington DC.
3. Lem, C. & Petropoulos, G. (2016), The economic value of personal data for online platforms, firms and consumers, Bruegel, Brussels, available online at [ and-consumers].
4. Yukon Government (2010), Labour Market Information Strategy, Yukon Government, Canada.
5. Intel Security (2015), Grand Theft Data-Data exfiltration study: Actors, tactics, and detection, Intel Corporation, USA.
6. Ernst & Young (EY) (2011), Insights on governance, risk and compliance 2011- Data loss prevention: Keeping your sensitive data out of the public domain, Ernst & Young,
7. Sung, H. (2004), State failure, economic failure and predatory organised crime: A comparative analysis, Journal of research in crime and delinquency May 2004 Vol. 41 no. 2 111-129, Sage Publication, US.
8. Lotspeich, R. (1995), "Crime in the transition economies", Europe-Asia Studies 47: 555-89.
9. Wikipedia (2016), Social engineering (security), Available online at [].

 [This article is based on the research work done by Aei4eiA and authored by Dr. Jayantee Mukherjee Saha, Director and Principal Consultant, Aei4eiA].